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.

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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.”

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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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