Russia 'developing space-based nuclear weapon' to target US satellites

By John Mercury February 15, 2024

Russia is developing a space-based nuclear weapon designed to target US satellites, sparking security concerns in Washington.

The weapon is not yet operational but it could put the US’s vital satellite network in danger, Sky’s US partner network NBC News has claimed, with Moscow denying the allegations.

It prompted the head of the US House Intelligence Committee to call for President Joe Biden to declassify information about “a serious national security threat”.

Republican congressman Mike Turner gave no details about the nature of the threat.

American satellites transmit billions of bytes of data on an hourly basis, and serve as a crucial backbone for US civilian communications, navigation, military operations and intelligence gathering.

An aide, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said it was not yet clear if the Russian weapon has nuclear capability, but said that is the fear.

Russian denial

For their part Russia on Thursday dismissed these reports, with the Kremlin’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov describing them, in TASS, as a “malicious fabrication” and a trick by the White House aimed at getting US lawmakers to approve more money to counter Moscow.

Russia’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS: “It is obvious that the White House is trying, by hook or by crook, to encourage Congress to vote on a bill to allocate money, this is obvious.”

Emergency meeting

However, White House officials have conceded the matter is “serious,” but that there are ways to “contain” the threat without triggering mass panic.

Several leading politicians, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, have warned against Americans being overly alarmed.

Mr Turner sent an email to members of Congress on Wednesday saying his committee had “identified an urgent matter with regard to a destabilising foreign military capability” that should be known to all congressional policymakers.

He encouraged them to come to a secure area to review the intelligence.

‘Not a cause for panic’

Mr Turner has been a voice for stronger US national security, putting him at odds with some Republican colleagues who favour a more isolationist approach.

He has called for the renewal of a key US government surveillance tool, while some fellow Republicans and liberal Democrats have raised privacy objections.

And he supports continuing US military aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia at a time when the funding remains uncertain because of opposition in the Republican-led House.

Mr Johnson said he was not at liberty to disclose the classified information.

“But we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel. We’re working on it and there’s no need for alarm,” he told reporters.

Democratic congressman Jim Himes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the classified information is “significant” but “not a cause for panic”.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee said it has been tracking the issue.

“We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration,” Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic committee chairman, and Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican vice chairman, said in a statement.

“In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for US action.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House that he already had been due to brief Mr Turner and other senior congressional leaders on Thursday.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 15, 2023. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

Sworn to secrecy

Mr Sullivan did not disclose the topic or provide any other details related to Mr Turner’s statement.

“I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight, tomorrow,” he said.

“And I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time.”

The Gang of Eight refers to a group of leaders in the US Congress who are briefed on national security matters.


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