National security experts are warning President Joe Biden to take seriously recent successful tests of missiles by Russia and China.
The warning also comes on the heels of the destruction by Russia of an old communications satellite this week that left more than 1,000 pieces of debris scattered in earth’s orbit and which threaten to impact existing satellites and the international space station.
Over the summer, China tested “a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile” that “circled the globe before speeding toward its target,” said a report cited by the Washington Examiner.
Experts noted that both of those tests were the first of their kind for each nation, though the technology incorporated into the missiles was not cutting edge.
In the case of China, while hypersonic technology is decades old, updated developments make the missiles much more difficult to track and intercept. And in the case of Russia’s test, Moscow’s military simply repeated a similar operation that China conducted in 2007, which was the first time that any country demonstrated an ability to interdict and destroy a satellite using an Earth-based missile, the Washington Post reported.
“The abandonment of a credible deterrent in the United States is itself expanding the realm of possibility,” national security and foreign policy expert Jason Killmeyer told the Washington Examiner, adding that condemning such tests and implementing economic sanctions “do not alter the trajectory of dictators any longer.”
“What I don’t hear is any understanding on the American side about how we would actually respond — how will we actually discourage this in the future? And the tools in our toolkit are sort of limited, particularly, I think, in an era of waning sanctions relevance,” Killmeyer added.
The United States military, under former President Donald Trump, launched an accelerated hypersonic missile development program. But a recent test resulted in failure, according to reports.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration blasted Russia’s missile test, which was “recklessly conducted,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday. The Russian military targeted an old intelligence satellite that had been in orbit for four decades.
The destruction sent more than “1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations,” Price said, noting that the new debris poses risks to existing space vehicles and structures including the International Space Station.
“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” added U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, head of U.S. Space Command, said in a statement.
“The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible,” Dickinson added.
Senior Heritage Foundation defense policy research fellow John Venable said that the U.S. response to the Russian test would set the tone as to whether it will prevent future provocations.
“We have this opportunity and this need to respond to a provocation in space,” he told the Examiner. “And this administration needs to sit down and maybe pull in some experts from outside of their orbits in order to get the right response and execute that.
“But the option to not do anything is not there nor is the opportunity to do something that is going to exacerbate the situation,” he added.
Tim Morrison, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and a Vandenberg Coalition Advisory Board member who served as a national security official during the Trump administration agreed that the U.S. should take the tests seriously and use them as an impetus to speed the development of its own systems.
“[The Russians are] proud of it,” he noted. “They’re sending us a message, and it’s incumbent on us to figure out what is that message.
“But other than that, I don’t see anything new here. … This is why we set up Space Force — because we were worried at the pace with which our adversaries were developing their capability intended to target our capability. And we were worried that we weren’t moving fast enough,” Morrison noted further.
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