Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Remarks to the press by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia with regard to the US-proposed draft resolution on nuclear weapons in outer space

Vassily Nebenzia: The US and Japan have presented to the Security Council a draft resolution prohibiting placement of nuclear weapons in outer space. It looks seemingly positive, but there are important pitfalls, which our Western colleagues try to conceal in this regard. I will try to expose these pitfalls so that no one has any illusions about true colors of this sly and misleading initiative.

First of all, let me confirm that this is a very important issue and we attach due attention to it. It's also wrong to claim that it's not being addressed by international community. Since the adoption in 1967 of the Outer Space Treaty, there is a clear obligation for States-Parties prohibiting placement WMDs in outer space. Russia is fully compliant with the obligations under this Treaty. Furthermore, in 1978, the General Assembly took a decision aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and established particular disarmament mechanisms to address this issue.

The issue of nuclear weapons is a subject of expert discussions in relevant international fora where we actively participate. One of the problems of the US-Japan draft is that it preempts these discussions and contains obligations that have never been examined in relevant disarmament fora by the full membership of the Outer Space Treaty. It is obvious that the Security Council, with its membership limited to 15 is not an appropriate forum to tackle outer space issues which affect wider UN membership, not to say adopt any additional legal obligations in circumvention of the existing mandates. If adopted, the US-Japan proposal would therefore bear detrimental consequences for further discussions within the inclusive UN fora by undermining their mandates. One has to bear in mind that while circulating in mass media allegations on Russia's “malicious plans” in space, our Western colleagues regard outer space as an essential warfighting domain. Ambitious programs to develop weapons systems designed to use a force and threaten to use a force in outer space are underway in a number of Western states. Such policies blatantly contradict the core provision of the Outer Space Treaty on peaceful use and exploration of outer space.

Russian Federation strives for decades for PAROS goals. We firmly believe that preservation of outer space for peaceful purposes is for the benefit of all humanity. From the outset of consultations regarding this draft resolution, we have been insisting on the inclusion of these commitments. This would allow the Security Council to send a clear and unequivocal message to the international community that outer space should remain a peaceful domain without any weapons, including nuclear. But the penholders fiercely resist our arguments. In other words, they want to include an obligation of non-development of nuclear weapons specifically designed to be placed in outer space, but resist to include a wider similar obligation pertaining to any kind of weapons. They resist and decline our amendments aimed at prohibiting any kind of weapons in outer space. Don't you think it is strange? Ask our US and Japanese colleagues why they behave in such a way. For us, the answer is clear. The only aim of the draft is to politicize the issue, support baseless US allegations against Russia, and to try to put us in an awkward position.

After using four vetoes to shield Israel from any responsibility for Gaza massacre, and to give it green light for any further operations, US badly needs this. They also want to avoid any obligations that would prevent them from doing what they are doing now – developing weapons systems that can be placed in outer space. Make no mistake here, as they say. Don't be misguided by the so-called US peaceful Initiative.

We act on the premise that all members of the UN Security Council share the common understanding that no weapons should be placed in outer space. We are convinced that keeping outer space free from weapons of any kind and thereby preventing it from turning into an area of military confrontation are priority tasks. It's regrettable that the US intends to play political games in this domain, risking to put all prospects of international cooperation there at risk.

Q: Does that mean you will veto or are you still engaging?

A: We are engaging, but so far to no avail. Make no mistake, this resolution is sly, and its aim is obvious, to expose Russia.

Q: On another subject. The Iranian Mission tweeted that if the Security Council had condemned the attack on their diplomatic premises in Damascus, it might avoid the need for them to retaliate. Normally, the Council issues statements condemning attacks on diplomatic premises. Was there a discussion in the Council about this and what happened?

A: There was a draft press statement, the work on which was finished at a certain point. It stopped at the insistence of our Anglo-Saxon colleagues. On the retaliation, you [should] ask the Iranian Mission. It's not our responsibility.

Q: Which delegation drafted it? Who drafted the press statement?

A: Us with the help of other UNSC members.

Q: A quick question about Palestine’s bid for full UN membership. There is another meeting this afternoon as you know. The US has made it clear that they are fully against it. Are you prepared to take it to a resolution and force a vote on it?

A: The penholders are Algeria and a group of Arab countries that discuss the issue. We will do as they decide. The US does not want to put it to the Security Council. It’s up to their will how they vote on it. Let them demonstrate to the world how they do. But I think the majority of UNSC members would like to see the resolution put forward to the Council. We already had a meeting on the Admissions Committee, which did not bring anything new compared to what it came to in 2011. I do not think today’s meeting will bring anything fresh either. We exhausted all efforts that the Admissions Committee could have done. Now it’s for Algeria and Palestine and the Arab group who are discussing the matter to decide what they do next.

Thank you.

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