- Vladimir Ermakov, a Russian official, has suggested that Western satellites aiding Ukraine could be targeted for retaliation.
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX provided Kyiv with Starlink satellite internet, giving a “major battlefield advantage.”
- Concerns are rising over the potential “weaponization” of space technology.
A stark warning has emanated from Russia: Western commercial satellites aiding Ukraine might be in their crosshairs.
Vladimir Ermakov, the man at the helm of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, has sounded the alarm.
He stated that these “quasi-civilian Western satellites could be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike,” as per a recent discussion with Russian journalists cited by Tass.
Notably absent from Ermakov’s comments was a list of the particular companies that have thrown their weight behind Ukraine using satellite technology.
However, it’s no secret that in the early phase of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, SpaceX’s Starlink satellites were rushed into action, facilitating Kyiv with vital internet services.
Companies like Maxar Technologies Inc. and Planet Labs PBC, U.S. satellite operators, are known to have contracts with various national-security agencies in the U.S., as highlighted by The Wall Street Journal.
SpaceX’s head honcho, Elon Musk, hasn’t shied away from declaring the “major battlefield advantage” Ukraine derives from the Starlink satellite-internet system. Ermakov chimed in, pointing out the alarming progression of this trend.
“We have consistently drawn the attention of the international community to this dangerous trend, which goes beyond the harmless use of space technology, clearly manifested during the events in Ukraine,” he elucidated.
“Obviously, the United States and its allies are not fully aware that such activities actually constitute indirect participation in armed conflicts.”
This isn’t the first time Russian officials have voiced concerns over the use of commercial satellites for military objectives.
Konstantin Vorontsov, another representative from the Russian Foreign Ministry, had raised a red flag back in October 2022.
He branded the West’s actions in using “commercial, infrastructure elements in outer space for military purposes” as an “extremely dangerous trend.”
“Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.”
In a U.N. assembly in September 2022, these concerns took center stage when Russia highlighted their apprehensions regarding weapon placement in outer space for military leverage by certain U.N. Member-States.
John Kirby, a spokesperson from the White House National Security Council, responded with a stern assurance.
He declared the U.S. would “continue to pursue all means to expose, deter and hold Russia accountable for any such attack should that occur.”
SpaceX, helmed by Musk, has autonomously financed a massive satellite network, positioning nearly 4,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit. These have become instrumental for Ukrainian forces for communication amidst their conflict with Russia.
In light of this, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, declared that their objective was never for Kyiv to “weaponize” the network, particularly not to maneuver drones in the disputed region.
Musk himself has remained adamant about not permitting Ukraine to exploit Starlink for aggressive actions against Crimea, a territory annexed by Russia. He cited fears of escalating the conflict.
Revealing an urgent appeal he received, Musk penned on X, previously known as Twitter, “There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol.”
The objective, he believed, was clear: “to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor.”
But Musk’s stance was firm.
He reasoned, “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
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