Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation Mr. Konstantin Vorontsov at the Thematic Discussion on Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects) in the First Committee of the 77th Session of the UNGA

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation has consistently advocated the preservation of outer space for exclusively peaceful activities of all States on an equitable basis. For decades, our principled position has been unchanging – the only way to reach this goal is by developing universally recognized legally binding principles and norms of international law that should be comprehensive and aim to prevent an arms race in outer space (PAROS), as provided in the decisions of the 1978 first special session of the United Nations General Assembly on |Disarmament.

The ever-growing risks of outer space becoming a launching pad for aggression and war merely confirm the urgent nature of this task. We reiterate our concern about the realisation of the policy by Western countries headed by the United States aimed at placement of weapons in outer space and the use of outer space for military purposes in order to ensure their dominance and supremacy. We note that they are carrying out ambitious programmes to develop weapons systems designed for the threat or use of force in, from or against outer space. 

Such actions are detrimental to international peace and security and fraught with drastic destabilisation and an arms race in outer space, which would completely undermine the prospects for arms limitation and reduction in general. We call on Western countries to stop their attempts to position outer space as a new arena of competition and conflict among States.

We would like to specifically stress an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine. Namely, the use by the United States and its allies of civilian, including commercial, infrastructure elements in outer space for military purposes. Apparently, these States do not realise that such actions in fact constitute indirect participation in military conflicts. Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation. Western actions needlessly put at risk the sustainability of peaceful space activities, as well as numerous social and economic processes on Earth that affect the well-being of people, first of all in developing countries. At the very least, this provocative use of civilian satellites is questionable under the Outer Space Treaty, which only provides for the peaceful use of outer space, and must be strongly condemned by the international community.

We believe that at this stage it is still possible to prevent start of a full-fledged arms race in outer space, the point of no return has not been passed yet. To this end, we reiterate our call for UN Member States to confirm their commitment to the existing international legal agreements that regulate outer space activities.

It is also necessary to take on national and international commitments to not place weapons of any kind in outer space (including in orbit around the Earth and on celestial bodies) and prohibit the threat or use of force against or with space objects, as well as introduce a complete and comprehensive ban on strike weapons in outer space for use against space objects.

We would like to remind you about our specific proposals in this regard:

– not to use space objects as a means of destroying any targets on Earth, in the atmosphere or outer space;

– not to create, test and deploy weapons in outer space for any purposes, including for missile defence, as anti-satellite means, attacking targets on Earth or in the atmosphere, as well as to eliminate all such systems already possessed by States;

– not to create, test, deploy and use outer space weapons for missile defence, as anti-satellite means or for attacking targets on Earth or in the atmosphere;

– not to destroy, damage, disrupt normal functioning or change flight trajectory of other States’ space objects;

– not to assist or incite other States, groups of States, international, intergovernmental or any non-governmental organizations, including non-governmental legal entities established, registered or located on the territory under their jurisdiction and/or control, to participate in the above activities.

We proceed from the fact that without reliable guarantees for keeping outer space free of weapons, enshrined in an international legally binding agreement on PAROS, solution to the issues related to peaceful use of outer space and ensuring security of space activities is unpromising.

Foundation for the relevant negotiations has been laid, namely the Russian-Chinese draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects (PPWT). The document is still on the negotiating table.

We suggest that the specialized UN group of governmental experts resume its work in order to study and introduce recommendations on substantive elements of a multilateral legally binding document on PAROS and the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space. 

Another Russian initiative aimed at stabilising the situation while this multilateral instrument is to be developed, is the political commitment of No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (NFP). Over thirty States have already become its full-fledged members, and the number of its supporters continues to grow steadily. 

Being a transparency and confidence-building measure aimed at PAROS, the NFP initiative has, in recent years, become a major political factor in strengthening international peace, ensuring equal and undivided security for all and increasing the predictability and sustainability of the activities of States related to the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. We encourage all States to participate in the initiative.

Mr. Chair,

We see the need to strengthen the central role of the UN Committee on Outer Space (COPUOS) in addressing the key issues on the outer space agenda. Today, it is more important than ever to ensure that debates are de-politicised and discussions within COPUOS mandate do not move to other forums. Otherwise, the work of this unique platform will simply be paralysed. Hopefully, no one wants this scenario to happen. 

Another negative trend is the establishment by some States of exclusionary coalitions along the lines of the so-called Artemis Accords. The creation of dividing lines in outer space, with some countries denying partnership to others under the pretext that the latter are "not democratic enough" or not being up to standards they had set themselves is a road to nowhere. Cooperation on the project of the International Space Station has proven that only mutually respectful equitable cooperation between leading space-faring nations can ensure true progress in the exploration of near-Earth space.  

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation introduces for the consideration of the First Committee draft UNGA resolution "No first placement of weapons in outer space". We have also prepared draft resolutions "Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities " and "Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space". We call on all States to support and co-sponsor our draft resolutions.

Thank you.