Russia used its United Nations Security Council veto on Thursday, April 25 to vote down an amendment proposing space be kept nuclear-weapon free, with the People’s Republic of China the only state abstaining.

All other 13 countries serving on the 15-member Security Council were 13 in favor of the resolution calling on all countries, particularly those already space-capable, to commit to preventing the use of nuclear weapons in outer space.

The US was the lead proponent of the measure that, had it been passed, reinforced a 1967 treaty banning the deployment or use of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction from space by any UN member state. Japan was a co-drafter of the resolution.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that Moscow opposed the measure because the amendment to the treaty would ban “all weapons” in space, a condition unacceptable to the Kremlin.


Washington was aware of the Russian concern and the staging of a Security Council vote on space weapons Russia was sure to reject was a “dirty spectacle,” Nebenzia said.

The Russian diplomat claimed the US was wasting Security Council time with frivolous votes on outer space regulations, to divert public attention from a recent American veto to a resolution that would have made Palestine a full member of the UN.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of being warlike and unwilling to put the good of humanity ahead of its perceived strategic priorities.

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A nuclear explosion in space, by any state, could destroy “thousands of satellites operated by countries and companies around the world – and wipe out the vital communications, scientific, meteorological, agricultural, commercial, and national security services we all depend on,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

White House's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a statement said Russia intends to nuclearize outer space: “ As we have noted previously, the United States assesses that Russia is developing a new satellite carrying a nuclear device…We have heard President [Vladimir] Putin say publicly that Russia has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space. If that were the case, Russia would not have vetoed this resolution.”


The US government in February announced it had obtained intelligence Russia was developing a nuclear device designed to be detonated in space to take hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit off-line. The UN resolution committing member states not to do that had gathered 63 other nations as co-sponsors, prior to the Russian veto.

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