Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation, at the Thematic Debate on “Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects)” in the First Committee of the 78th Session of the UNGA

Mr. Chair,

Russia, as author of a number of fundamental PAROS initiatives, has steadily contributed to keeping outer space free from weapon of any type and preventing it from turning into another area of tension and armed confrontation. We have consistently advocated the preservation of outer space for exclusively peaceful activities of all States on the basis of equality.

However, recently the risks of turning outer space into a springboard for aggression and war have become quite real. The course towards placing weapons in outer space, building capabilities for exerting force against space objects (primarily, through the development of weapons systems designed to threat or use force in, from and against outer space) and using outer space for conducting combat operations, that is being pursued by the United States and a number of Western countries, continues to undermine international peace and security, destabilize the situation in outer space and negatively impact the advancement towards the PAROS goal.

We also stress an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the scope of innocuous use of space technologies which has become apparent in the course of the events in Ukraine. Namely, the use of civil, including commercial, infrastructure components in outer space for military purposes by the United States and its allies. Apparently, these States do not fully realize that such activities essentially constitute indirect involvement in armed conflicts. We repeat for those who refuse to understand: quasi civil infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.

As a result of irresponsible actions of Western States, the sustainability of peaceful outer space activities is put at unjustified risks as well as numerous social and economic activities processes on Earth that affect the well-being of people, primarily in developing countries. At the very least, such provocative use of civil satellites raises questions in the context of the Outer Space Treaty, which provides for exclusively peaceful use of the outer space, and should be strongly condemned by the international community.

Against this background there is an increased relevance of the initiatives aimed at preserving outer space for exploration and use for exclusively peaceful purposes, preventing an arms race in outer space and launching relevant negotiations in the spirit of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, as envisaged by the decisions of the 1978 First UNGA Special Session on Disarmament.

It is necessary to take both at the national and international levels commitment that weapons of any type shall not be placed in outer space (including in orbit around the Earth and on celestial bodies), and the use or threat of force against or by means of space objects shall be prohibited. A comprehensive ban must be established on space strike weapons designed to destroy space objects.

In this context, it is important to understand that without reliable guarantees of keeping outer space free from weapons, enshrined in an international legally binding agreement on PAROS, efforts to resolve issues related to the peaceful use of space and ensuring the security of space activities are futile. For these purposes, in 2008, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China submitted for consideration by the Conference on Disarmament (CD) a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects and in 2014 introduced its updated version taking into account remarks and proposals by some States. This document remains on the negotiations table and it hasn't lost its relevance.

We welcome the forthcoming resumption of the work of the dedicated Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) established by the UNGA Resolution 77/250 for the purposes to consider and make recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on PAROS and the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space. We expect that the GGE will succeed in agreeing on a substantial report and give a new impetus to the international community's efforts in this area with a view to preventing the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force in, from and against outer space once and for all. This would allow significantly progress towards the PAROS goal.

We consider transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (TCBMs) as an interim measure for the period until the said legally binding instrument designed to ensure predictability of strategic situation in outer space is elaborated. The TCBMs should complement, rather than substitute an efficient legally binding regime in relation to outer space. This point was confirmed in the Recommendations to promote the practical implementation of TCBMs with the goal of PAROS adopted by consensus this year by the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC). We welcome the meaningful results of the UNDC's "three-year" working cycle. We expect that the TCBMs contained within its report will be applied in the national practices on a voluntary basis to the maximum extent possible and feasible, in line with the interests of UN Member States.

We proceed from the common understanding of the importance of the TCBMs as an integral element of an international legally binding instrument on PAROS. Such measures should aim to completely prohibit the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force against or by means of space objects. It is exactly these measures that are intended to ensure, inter alia, the resolution of disputes related to the implementation of a possible future PAROS treaty.

The international initiative/political commitment "No first placement of weapons in outer space" (NFP) remains the only effective TCBM for the purposes of preventing the placement of weapons in outer space. More than thirty States have already become its full-fledged participants and their number keeps growing steadily.

The accession of all States to the NFP initiative would mean, in essence, taking a global political commitment not to place weapons in outer space which would render meaningless the development of both space strike weapons and anti-satellite defense systems. We call on all States to join the NFP. We are convinced that globalization of the NFP political commitment would become a serious confidence-building measure in States' outer space activities. We consider the NFP as a step towards an international legally binding instrument that would contain guarantees against the placement of strike weapons systems in Earth orbit.

Mr. Chair,

We see the need to strengthen the central role of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in resolving key issues on the outer space agenda. There should not be any transfer of discussions which are  within the COPUOS mandate to other fora. We stress that any attempts to bring agenda of development of international legal basis for peaceful outer space activities beyond this unique interstate platform lead to undermining of the COPUOS' fundamental role embodied in the decisions of the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation submits to the First Committee for consideration the draft UNGA resolutions "No first placement of weapons in outer space", "Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (TCBMs)", and "Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space". When preparing the documents, we drew on the existing groundwork on PAROS as well as the outputs of various relevant multilateral formats. Our draft resolutions are aimed at consolidating the discussion on PAROS and developing a unifying agenda. We call on all States to support and co-sponsor these draft resolutions.

Thank you.