AMBASSADOR LEONID SKOTNIKOV
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE
AT THE PLENARY MEETING OF THE
CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
Geneva, 1 February 2005
It is well known that the issue of preventing of an arms race in outer space is the priority of the Russian Federation in the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. Our common central task in this context is to prevent placement of weapons in outer space.
We believe that fulfilling this task serves the interests of all countries without exception. Should we fail, the world would face a qualitatively new unstable military and strategic situation, emergence of additional motivation for an arms race in space and on the ground and much weaker capabilities to deter proliferation of WMD and means of its delivery. The world would also be endangered with a threat to safety and security of spacecrafts whose normal operation becomes increasingly indispensable for the humanity. If we manage to prevent placement of weapons in outer space, we shall be able to direct progress in space science and technology into a constructive course for the benefit of all.
Russia has a considerable space potential and experience of outer space exploration. Non-weaponization of outer space is not an abstract theoretical issue for us. We clearly envisage all unavoidable negative consequences of weapons’ placement there. These consequences could be even more serious than possible destabilizing effect of strategic missile defense systems coming into reality. We do not want to be engaged in a new arms race and would like to prevent such a scenario.
The Conference on Disarmament can contribute to solving this important issue of international security. Russia is interested in resumption of substantive work of the CD as soon as possible in order to commence a detailed discussion on the problem and ways of its solution in an Ad Hoc Committee on PAROS. As proposed by China and Russia, elaboration of the Treaty on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects could be one of such ways. The flexibility demonstrated by Russia and China has in fact made it possible to consider the mandate for such an Ad Hoc Committee agreed as it is reflected in the last version of the A5 proposal.
However, the Conference on Disarmament so far has not been able to reach an agreement on its program of work, but the threat of outer space weaponization, to put it mildly, has not diminished, and this is not a secret for anyone. In these circumstances we can not sit idle. The Russian Federation has recently launched a number of initiatives to scale down this threat.
At the UNGA 56th Session the Russian Federation proposed a moratorium on placement of combat devices in outer space up prior to reaching an appropriate international agreement. We also expressed our readiness to undertake the obligation immediately, provided that other outer space powers join the moratorium.
Russia has also unilaterally started to implement such an important measure of transparency and confidence building in outer space activities as providing in advance information on scheduled launches of outer space objects, their predestination and basic parameters of their orbits.
Last year we stated that at that moment and for the near future the Russian Federation had no plans to create space weapon systems and place them in outer space. At the same time, Russia consistently continues to comply with its moratorium on testing of anti-satellite systems.
Last October at the First Committee of the UNGA 59th session we launched a new major Russian initiative aimed at preventing of weaponization of outer space.
For the first time Russia has unilaterally and unconditionally declared it would not be the first to place weapons of any kind in outer space. We also called on all countries with a space potential to follow our example.
This statement is an important and responsible step.
First of all, on the substance of the statement, or, in other words, its key terms. Although it is a political and not a legally binding statement, here comes the issue of definitions. What do we mean by “space weapon” or by “placement”?
I would like to remind that we have already proposed earlier that the term "space weapons" could mean systems or devices, based on any physical principle, launched into the orbit around the Earth or placed in the outer space by any other way, which are produced or converted to destroy, damage or disrupt normal functioning of objects in outer space, as well as targets on the surface of the Earth or in the air. Space weapons are created to directly impact adversary's assets, and, by its nature, can be either weapons of mass destruction or conventional ones, including those based on new physical principles. It is exactly this kind of weapons that Russia has committed itself not to be the first to place in outer space.
As far as the term “placement” is concerned, it implies that a weapon would be considered as placed in outer space if it orbits the Earth at least once or follows a section of such a trajectory before being accelerated out of that orbit, or acquires a stable station anywhere beyond the Earth's orbit.
Now, on the political sense of our statement.
It confirms that Russia itself does not intend to constitute a threat to anyone in outer space and from outer space. This logically follows the previous above-mentioned Russian statements and initiatives. Creation of outer space weapons is certainly not our choice. Therefore, Russia and its intentions can not be a reason for justification of placing of weapons in outer space by the others.
As we invite other outer space powers to follow our initiative, we proceed, inter alia, from the understanding that this could help to start moving from the current deadlock and in the right direction, while bearing in mind realities, including the reluctance of certain capitals to engage in negotiations on a legally binding instrument on prevention of placement of weapons in outer space. We believe that unilateral political statements - similar to the Russian one - of the nations which possess a space potential could create a “safety net” of a sort of interweaving unilateral and voluntary security assurances in outer space. Consequently, those nations which made political statements not to be the first to place weapons in outer space could form a kind of a “club” where members could discuss ways of mutual verification of implementation of these statements and other related issues.
Our statement does not imply a ban on military activities in outer space carried out in accordance with the UN Charter in the interest of maintaining international peace and security. It does not embrace outer space systems which perform information support functions and cause no harm to any outer space object; ballistic missiles passing through outer space; land- and air-based missile defense systems and space sensors; anti-satellite systems, excluding space-based. In other words, our initiative is aimed at limitation of something that does not exist yet. This can help other leading space nations to take decisions on making statements similar to our.
The Russian statement in no way limits possibilities and prospects of international cooperation in outer space exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes. On the contrary, it significantly facilitates such a cooperation and is conducive to strengthening safety and security of spacecrafts in outer space.
Similar political statements by outer space powers, of course, will not and can not replace a legally binding document on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space. Nevertheless, they could create favorable political and psychological conditions to commence working out such a treaty and promote an environment of mutual trust. That is why they will not lose their importance after an Ad Hoc Committee on PAROS is reestablished and resumes its work.
Using this opportunity, we would like once again to pay tribute to the initiatives and ideas on PAROS, which have been previously put forward by other states, in particular Canada and France. In our opinion, most of them remain topical.
We call on all the nations possessing outer space potential to make their unilateral voluntary statements not to be the first to place any weapon in outer space. We hope that the Russian initiative will become an object of careful consideration and will generate a positive reaction.
For additional information please visit the web site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation - www.mid.ru