White House Confirms Russia Has ‘Troubling’ Anti-Satellite Capability But Says It Poses No Threat


(RFE/RL) — The White House on February 15 confirmed that Russia has obtained a “troubling” emerging anti-satellite “capability” but said it had not yet been deployed and poses no immediate threat.

“I can confirm that it is related to an anti-satellite capability that Russia has developed,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House.

Kirby said that while Russia’s “pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety,” adding that it was not a weapon that can be “used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth.”

The White House confirmation came a day after the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Turner (Republican-Ohio), urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he called a serious national security threat.

Kirby said that the process of reviewing and declassifying information about the Russian capability had been under way when Turner “regrettably” released his statement.

Russia downplayed the U.S. concern, saying the claims were a ploy intended to make the U.S. Congress support aid for Ukraine.

“It’s obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. “Let’s see what ruse the White House will use.”

President Joe Biden has pushed the House of Representatives to approve a $95 billion bill passed by the Senate that would supply aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Some far-right Republicans in the House have rejected the aid package, saying they would support the package only if it were tied to deep changes to border policy to stem a record flow of migrants.

Kirby’s comments came as U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan was set to hold a briefing with a select group of senior congressional leaders amid media reports about the new intelligence.

While Turner’s statement on February 14 gave no specifics, U.S. media reports quoted unnamed sources as saying the issue revolves around new capabilities Russia is attempting to develop in space-based weapons.

Turner said he was asking Biden to declassify “all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the Administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond.”

Sullivan told a news conference that the meeting had been called prior to Turner’s statement and that ultimately, it is Biden’s decision on whether to declassify any information.

“But in the meantime, the most important thing is we have the opportunity to sit in a classified setting and have the kind of conversation with the House intelligence leadership that I, in fact, had scheduled before Congressman Turner [spoke],” Sullivan said of the meeting scheduled for February 15.

Reports in The New York Times said that the intelligence Turner referred to was related to Russia’s attempts to develop a space-based, anti-satellite nuclear weapon. This would potentially violate an international space treaty, to which more than 130 countries have signed onto, including Russia.

ABC News quoted current and former officials as saying the nuclear weapon was not currently in orbit.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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