“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Gen. John ‘Jay’ Raymond, commander of the newly minted U.S. Space Force, told TIME about a pair of Russian spacecraft that are tailing a multibillion-dollar U.S. spy satellite hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface.
Just days after President Trump tweeted the new Space Force logo, and discussed it during the State of The Union address, America’s Space Force Commander says the Russian spacecraft began maneuvering toward the American satellite shortly after being launched into orbit in November, at times creeping within 100 miles of it.
“It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”
As TIME notes, the confrontation marks the first time the U.S. military has publicly identified a direct threat to a specific American satellite by an adversary, and the US military has expressed concern to Moscow through diplomatic channels.
Of course, the timing is interesting as The Pentagon, White House and Congressional backers, say the incident demonstrates the need for the Space Force, which President Donald Trump established in December when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, becoming the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947.
At a time when The White House is requesting $15 billion in this week’s budget proposal – representing a strategic shift from passively operating and observing satellites to actively defending them – having a “Russia, Russia, Russia” enemy to point to in space is a useful ally in the budget process.
Though none of that is good for any kind of ‘global calming’, as Putin warned last week, as he commemorated the 75th anniversary of World War II,
“Unfortunately, nowadays humankind is coming ever closer to a dangerous line. Regional conflicts are multiplying, the threats of terrorism and extremism are growing and the arms control system is being uprooted. The global economy is also unstable…
… Global peace and security largely depend on the state of relations between Russia and the United States, as well as on their stability and predictability. We are convinced that these relations should hinge on the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. “
As TIME concludes, the Russian embassy did not respond to requests for comment about the allegedly threatening maneuvers by its satellites.
The Kremlin has previously stated they are not weapons, but rather “inspector” spacecraft engaged in an “experiment.”
Commander Raymond is not so sure, saying that he’s concerned because Russia is demonstrating capabilities the U.S. first saw three years ago, when Moscow tested the “Russian nesting doll” technology.
“In 2017, they launched a satellite, it launched another satellite,” he says.
“The satellites exhibited characteristics of a weapon system when one of those satellites launched a high-speed projectile into space.”
The U.S., Russia and other nations have yet to establish a ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’-based diplomatic structure for space, and experts warn of the dangers of weaponizing the cosmos without them.