Daily Review: Russia Developing Space-Based Nuclear Capabilities

Daily Review: Russia Developing Space-Based Nuclear Capabilities
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Victory Day military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2022 (Sputnik photo by Mikhail Metzel via AP).

Russia is developing a space-based nuclear capability designed to target the United States’ extensive satellite network, according to U.S. officials. The intelligence came to light yesterday after a U.S. lawmaker posted a cryptic message calling on the Biden administration to declassify the information. (New York Times)

Our Take

It’s not entirely clear what kind of weapon Russia is developing, with some reports suggesting it’s either a space-based nuclear weapon or a nuclear-powered electronic jamming device. In any case, it’s intended to target satellites, both military and civilian, meaning it could pose a significant threat to the U.S. and its allies. But it’s important to stress that Russia does not appear close to deploying the weapon in question to space, and U.S. officials do not consider the threat urgent.

The news of the weapon, however, is just the latest example of Russia’s efforts to develop, expand and brandish its nuclear arsenal. To some extent, these efforts can be read mainly as saber-rattling—Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made not-so-thinly veiled threats about the country’s nuclear capabilities in recent years, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine. Last year, Moscow also revoked ratification of a global nuclear test ban treaty and suspended participation in a bilateral nuclear arms control pact with Washington.

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