Arms control in outer space: The Russian angle, and a possible way forward

By Alexey Arbatov | June 27, 2019

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 25 : S-400 surface-to-air missile launcher is seen at 'ARMY-2019 International Military and Technical Forum' in Moscow, Russia on June 25, 2019. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Against the background of new US-Russia and US-China political confrontation and the comprehensive crisis surrounding nuclear arms control treaties, there may be little immediate hope for successful talks on the non-weaponization of space. Even so, if and when political preconditions change and serious arms control negotiations resume, the non-militarization of outer space will inevitably return to the disarmament agenda. The United States and Russia, as a minimum, have an obvious common security interest in space – limiting as much as possible the dedicated anti-satellite (ASAT) systems that threaten the satellites that are designed to warn each nation of a ballistic missile attack by any state. A focus on the verifiable ban on the testing of such anti-satellite systems would give the United States and Russia a practical starting point for further negotiations on the non-militarization of space.

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The United States and Russia have an obvious common interest in strictly limiting anti-satellite systems that threaten early warning satellites.

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