Russia has obtained a ‘troubling’ emerging anti-satellite weapon, the White House says

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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By AAMER MADHANI and ZEKE MILLER

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House publicly confirmed on Thursday that Russia has obtained a “troubling” emerging anti-satellite weapon but said it cannot directly cause “physical destruction” on Earth.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said U.S. intelligence officials have information that Russia has obtained the capability but that such a weapon is not currently operational. U.S. officials are analyzing the information they have on the emerging technology and have consulted with allies and partners on the matter.

“First this is not an active capability that’s been deployed and though Russia’s pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety,” Kirby said. “We’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth.”

The White House confirmed its intelligence after a vague warning Wednesday from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he called a serious national security threat.

Kirby said that the process of reviewing and declassifying information about the Russian capability was underway when Turner “regrettably” released his statement.

“We have been very careful and deliberate about what we decide to declassify downgrade and share with the public,” he added.

Russia has downplayed the U.S. concern about the capability.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the claims about a new Russian military capability as a ruse intended to make the U.S. Congress support aid for Ukraine.

“It’s obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook,” Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. “Let’s see what ruse the White House will use.”

The capability is space based and would violate an international space treaty, to which more than 130 countries have signed onto, including Russia.

The White House said it would look to engage the Russians directly on the concerns. Even as the White House sought to assure Americans, Kirby acknowledged it was a serious matter.

“I don’t want to minimize the potential here for disruption,” Kirby said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was scheduled to brief lawmakers Thursday on Capitol Hill on the Russian threat.

The White House did not hide its frustration with how Turner went about sharing concerns about the threat.

“We make decisions about how and when to publicly disclose intelligence in a careful deliberate and strategic way, in a way that we choose,” Kirby said.

“We’re not going to be knocked off that process, regardless of what, in this particular case has found its way into the public domain,” he added. “I can assure you that we will continue to keep members of Congress as well as our international partners and all of you and the American people as fully informed as possible.”