In Geneva on Tuesday, a U.S. State Department official warned a United Nations disarmament conference that Russia has launched a purported "space apparatus inspector" whose "very abnormal behavior" is "of great concern" to the U.S. government. "We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it," said Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance. "But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development," especially given America's "concerns over many years that the Russian Federation is actively pursuing the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons."
Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat, told Reuters that Poblete's comments were "the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions, and so on," and suggested the U.S. join Russia and China in developing a treaty to prevent an arms race in space. ("The United States has clearly articulated the many flaws of this draft treaty," Poblete said in her speech, and Russia's "hollow and hypocritical efforts are not the answer" given its routine violations of easier-to-verify arms treaties.)
Space weapons like "lasers or microwave frequencies that could just stop [a satellite] working for a time, either disable it permanently without destroying it or disrupt it via jamming," are a real concern, Royal United Services Institute analyst Alexandra Stickings tells BBC News. And they would be hard to differentiate from other satellites. But the Trump administration may not be in the best position to complain, after President Trump ordered a new military Space Force branch, she added. "The narrative coming from the U.S. is, 'Space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing' — ignoring the fact that the U.S. has developed its own capabilities." Peter Weber