Russia vetoes UN resolution to prevent nuclear weapons in space

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called on all states to prevent the placement of nuclear weapons in space and not take steps to develop weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed above Earth.

Thirteen member nations voted in approval of the U.N. Security Council resolution, including the U.S. and Japan, which spearheaded the measure. While Russia was the lone no vote, Moscow is a permanent member and can veto resolutions. China abstained from the vote.

After the vote, the U.S. mission to the U.N. blasted Russia for defeating the resolution and criticized China for not voting against it.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, the alternate representative for special political affairs at the U.N., said the resolution “would have reaffirmed the shared goal of preventing an arms race in outer space and urged exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.”

“We are incredibly disappointed by the result of today’s vote. But we remain undeterred,” he said in a press conference after the vote. “We will continue to show up to the negotiating table in good faith, and encourage bilateral arms control discussions with Russia and China, right now, without preconditions.”

Russia’s veto comes after the U.S. earlier this year warned that Moscow was preparing to potentially deploy a nuclear weapon in space that could threaten other satellites. The U.S. previously informed allies that Russia could launch the nuclear weapon into space or a test dummy warhead this year.

If Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon in space, it would be a violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that prevents weapons of mass destruction in space. The U.S., Russia and China are signatories of that treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any plans to put nuclear weapons in space, but the fears come as he has repeatedly threatened the U.S. and Western allies with nuclear weapons amid the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said after the vote Wednesday that Moscow has no plans to deploy nuclear weapons in space and accused the U.S. instead of blocking other proposals on preventing all weapons in space.

“Washington is clumsily trying to [shake] criticism, shifting blame,” he said, adding that Russia would soon be introducing an alternative resolution.

Russia, together with China, proposed an amendment to the resolution that would have called for states to prevent the placement of any weapons in space, but the measure was defeated, failing to secure the support of nine members of the council.

Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Zhang Jun said there should be attempts to prevent an arms race in space, appearing to also shift the blame toward the U.S. as he accused one member of the council of building military alliances in space.

“The draft resolution that was just voted on is incomplete and unbalanced,” he said. “If the U.S. and Japan were truly committed to advance the council’s constructive deliberations on outer space security, then they should focus squarely on the risks of outer space being weaponized and the potential arms race.”

The resolution specifically would have reaffirmed the Outer Space Treaty obligations and called on all member nations not to develop nuclear weapons that could be used in space.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the vote that Russia appeared to be “hiding” something by vetoing the resolution.

“Why, if you are following the rules, would you not support a resolution that reaffirms them?” she said. “Today’s vote marks a real missed opportunity to rebuild much-needed trust in existing arms control obligations.”

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