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  • Writer's picture4717

Tall Pour: What has Moscow Done?

The theatrics in Congress over just what the Russians are trying to launch into orbit are not helping the national paranoia. The thinking about that “serious national security threat” is that it is likely something to do with nuclear weapons in space. Congress was briefed last week. Zaniness ensued.


Throughout the Cold War, the assumption by both sides was that the first use of nukes would be in space to knock out communications and blind the other side preemptively. That’s nothing new, and the subject of one of the first 4717 Insight papers. The current threat is likely an ASAT – or anti-satellite missile system. Back in 2021, Russia successfully shot a satellite out of the orbit. That’s a tricky move, and the US, China and India have pulled it off. It’s a question of aim, not power; satellites are very flimsy – get close enough you could knock one out with buckshot.


There is also the possibility that it is a “fractional orbital bombardment system” (FOBS) that essentially puts a nuclear weapon in space to orbit over the earth so it can strike anywhere without warning. These are prohibited by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but treaties are being trumped by the realpolitik these days. There is plenty of evidence that China is working on its hypersonic glider program.


That is more ominous, of course. But it in orbit, the US does have the capability (along with China and India) to knock a weapon out of space in fairly short order in Moscow did, in fact, launch the thing into orbit. It would however require US foreign policy to shift to a proactive stance – something Washington rarely does – and take such a weapon out before it gets into position to strike without warning.


This piece has been updated to reflect the unfolding situation and new intelligence.



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