Her title is a long one: US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. And on Tuesday Yleem Poblete sounded an alarm, bringing before a UN conference "a matter related to outer space that is of great concern to my government and that relates to space security." Her comments initially centered around Russia and its history of moves in pursuit of "the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons" before getting specific: She's concerned about Russia's launch of an inspector satellite that has acted "abnormally."
- An excerpt of her comments: In October "the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a 'space apparatus inspector.' But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities. We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior ... We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development."
- Reuters reports a Russian delegate in attendance brushed off Poblete's remarks, calling them "the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on."
- At Jalopnik, Jason Torchinsky writes that we not only don't know much about the satellite, he couldn't even "find a likely candidate" based on his review of October 2017 launches, though he outlines why the Kosmos-2523 may be the one. As far as what it's up to, "has it 'inspected' non-Russian satellites? Is it a test of a satellite-killer system designed to cripple an enemy’s orbital assets? All we do really know is that Kosmos-2523 has made the US State Department sufficiently nervous to make the alarming statements they made."
- The Washington Times reports Poblete pushed the UN to hold out for a tougher version of the "Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space," a Chinese-Russian treaty that exists in draft form and aims to keep weapons systems out of space, though Poblete asserts the draft version is flawed in that it doesn't allow for international inspectors.
- A research analyst with the Royal United Services Institute flags the timing of it all, pointing out to the BBC that Poblete's comments come on the heels of President Trump's Space Force announcement. "The narrative coming from the US is, 'space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing'—ignoring the fact that the US has developed its own capabilities."
- In other US-Russia news, Reuters on Wednesday reported that the US will up its count of Marines stationed in Norway from 330 to 700, with the plan being to station some of them nearer to the Russia border. Norway says the decision relates to training needs. Russia called it a "clearly unfriendly" move.
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