“Russia Unveils Troubling Anti-Satellite Weapon, White House Assures No Immediate Threat to Safety”

New Delhi: The White House confirmed on Thursday that Russia has a concerning anti-satellite weapon, but it can’t directly cause physical harm on Earth. John Kirby, a spokesperson for White House national security, stated that U.S. intelligence knows about Russia’s possession of this capability, but the weapon is not currently in use. The U.S. is studying the information and discussing it with allies. Kirby assured that while Russia’s pursuit of this capability is troubling, there’s no immediate threat to safety since the weapon can’t be used to attack people or cause physical destruction on Earth.

The White House verified its intelligence following a general warning on Wednesday from Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee. Turner had urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he labeled as a significant national security threat.
Kirby mentioned that the review and declassification of Russian capability details were already in progress when Turner released his statement. He added that they have been cautious about what information to share with the public.

Russia has downplayed the U.S. concern. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the claims about a new Russian military capability a tactic aimed at getting support from the U.S. Congress for aid to Ukraine.
Peskov stated, “It’s obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook.” He added, “Let’s see what ruse the White House will use.”

Kirby mentioned that the capability is space-based and would violate the international Outer Space Treaty, signed by over 130 countries, including Russia. He didn’t comment on whether the weapon is nuclear-capable. The treaty prohibits deploying nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or stationing weapons in outer space.

The White House intends to address concerns by engaging directly with Russia. While assuring Americans, Kirby emphasized that it is a serious matter and acknowledged the potential for disruption.
On Thursday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the Russian threat. After the meeting, Turner stated that Sullivan discussed the administration’s options for addressing the threat. Turner conveyed that they got a strong impression that the administration is taking the matter seriously and has a plan in place. Representative Jim Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, described the threat as “pretty standard stuff” compared to the national security threats the intelligence panel typically handles.

Himes mentioned, “This is not a threat for today, tomorrow, next week, or next month.” He respected Turner’s decision to warn Congress about the threat but expressed concern about it being made public on social media.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, who attended the briefing, said lawmakers had raised concerns about the threat last month and requested a meeting with President Biden. He described Thursday’s meeting as “informative” and stated that Sullivan assured leaders that the White House would stay in close contact with lawmakers. Johnson emphasized the urgency of addressing the matter immediately.

The White House expressed frustration with Turner’s handling of sharing concerns about the threat. Kirby stated, “We make decisions about how and when to publicly disclose intelligence in a careful, deliberate, and strategic way, in a way that we choose.” He assured that they would continue to keep Congress, international partners, and the public informed.

White House officials mentioned concerns about broad declassification of intelligence. The U.S. has been aware of Russia’s pursuit of anti-satellite capability for months or even a few years. Biden has been regularly briefed on the issue. The U.S. has previously downgraded intelligence findings about Moscow’s plans during its conflict with Ukraine.

Kirby noted that private engagement on the Russian anti-satellite threat could have been a more effective approach, aligning with the administration’s strategic and deliberate approach to handling such information, especially concerning Russia.
Some far-right members of Congress and allies of former President Donald Trump claimed that information about the Russian threat only surfaced to help President Joe Biden win passage of additional funding for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as funding for Israel and Taiwan. A $95 billion package that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan is stalled in the Republican-controlled House.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, expressed skepticism on social media, stating, “Does anyone really believe that there is a serious Russian threat that magically leaks about 30 seconds after the Speaker said they’re not going to take up funding another $60 billion in Ukraine?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally, suggested that the government leaked the intelligence “in order to pressure Congress to make certain votes, protect its own power to spy on its own citizens.”

On the other hand, lawmakers, including some on the House Intelligence Committee, defended Turner’s handling of the situation. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Navy veteran on the intelligence panel, stated, “The public has an interest in knowing.”