During the 70 Session of the United Nations General Assembly the United States plans to vote against a motion put forward by Russia and 26 other countries, on the initial non-deployment of weapons in outer space. A statement to this effect was made by US Ambassador to the Conference On Disarmament, Robert Wood. This development was entirely expected – the day before, the USA refused support for a corresponding draft resolution at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. An explanation came from Washington, that they refused to sign a document with no clear definition of what constituted “weaponry in outer space.”


When voting took place on 3 November in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly (which hears issues related to disarmament and other topics of international security) 122 national representatives supported the resolution, 47 delegates (primarily from European countries) abstained, while the US, Georgia, Israel and Ukraine voted against. The document, which was developed by Russia and 26 other countries, mentions the “importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space, and the willingness of nations to participate in achieving such a goal.” The resolution's authors call for “the soonest possible start on substantive work, based on an updated draft agreement to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space, and to forbid attacks, or the threat of attacks, against space vessels.”

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However, Washington believes that the initiative has not been properly thought out. After the vote Robert Wood – US Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament – said the document “contains a number of serious issues.” Specifically, the document contains no clear description of what is meant by “weaponry in outer space.” “This means that countries have no common understanding for using this terminology” stresses the explanatory communiqué, which was issued yesterday. Furthermore, the United States believes it impossible “to verify the political commitment of nations effectively” on non-deployment of weapons in space. And finally, the Americans believe a substantial drawback in the resolution is that “it is exclusively concerned with space-based weapons. It fails to mention terrestrial anti-satellite weapons — and thus it can only promote their expansion, rather than reducing distrust and the risks of miscalculation.”


When mentioning terrestrial anti-satellite weapons, the Americans are referring to, amongst others, testing which was conducted by China in 2007. In these tests, the Chinese used this type of weaponry to shoot down one of their own weather satellites. The blast caused a debris cloud that poses a threat to other space vessels. Factoring in this information, as Robert Wood said, “the US intends to vote against the draft resolution at the Plenary Session of the UN General Assembly.”


Bear in mind that in December 2012 the UN already adopted a resolution put forward by Russia “On the initial non-deployment of weapons in space.” According to this UN resolution, nations involved or developing space programs are obliged to refuse to participate in an arms race in space, for the sake of a safer world. The resolution was signed by 126 nations – and just as now, four nations voted against. The Russian Foreign Ministry noted at the time that “it was significant which nations voted against.” “These two nations (ie America & Israel – Kommersant) are unwilling to join international efforts to prevent an arms race in space, and were joined by two further nations – Georgia & Ukraine – who are politically linked to them,” as the report of the Russian diplomatic office made clear.