Russia’s top diplomat on Tuesday dismissed harsh criticism from the United States over a test of a killer satellite missile that left a large trail of debris in space, arguing that Washington was to blame for blocking global efforts aimed at containing the militarization of space.
The State Department has criticized in unusually sharp terms the surprise test of a new Russian direct-ascension anti-satellite missile, which destroyed an obsolete Russian intelligence satellite and generated some 1,500 pieces of “traceable orbital debris.”
At one point on Monday, American and Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station hid in the station’s docked re-entry vehicles for fear the craft would be hit by stray debris.
The UK Ministry of Defense also criticized the anti-satellite missile test.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday, accused the Biden administration of making “unfounded accusations” after declining invitations to discuss how to reverse militarization from space.
“No facts exist” to back up US complaints that the Russian exercise posed a risk to peaceful space exploration, Lavrov said, accusing the US of hypocrisy. He cited the Trump administration’s creation of the Space Force, the first new US military wing in decades, and what he said was a clear US military policy to dominate the battlefield in space.
“We would rather the United States finally sit down at the negotiating table, instead of making baseless accusations,” Lavrov said, according to the TASS news service, “and discuss his concerns about the treaty , which Russia and China propose to prevent this arms race and which the United States cannot accept.
“It would be very interesting for us to hear a precise and motivated position and not pretexts,” he said.
Russia and China have been working since 2005 on a joint diplomatic push that they say aims to prevent the militarization of space.
In 2014, the two countries presented to the Conference on Disarmament an updated discussion paper on a proposal for a “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against space objects ”, but little progress has been made on the initiative since.
US critics say the proposal is designed to tie the hands of the Pentagon even as Moscow and Beijing seek to improve their military capabilities in space.
Russian defense officials confirmed on Tuesday that they carried out the strike on the defunct Cosmos 1408 satellite, but also rejected US claims that debris from the strike posed a threat.
“The United States knows for sure that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, do not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities,” said the ministry in a press release.
The United States, China, and India have also conducted anti-satellite missile tests, but the U.S. and Indian exercises were conducted at much lower altitudes, well below the Space Station’s orbital path and other satellites.