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U.S. warns Russia against nuclear-capable anti-satellite weapon

The Biden administration recently issued direct warnings to the Russian government against deploying a nuclear-capable anti-satellite weapon, U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News. The warning was part of a broader diplomatic push that has also involved urging the Indian and Chinese governments, among others, to weigh in directly with Moscow.

The talks come after a warning from House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner, Republican of Ohio — who issued a cryptic statement last week regarding a "serious national security threat" — propelled the matter to public prominence. 

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby later said Turner's concern was related to a space-based "anti-satellite capability" being developed by Russia, but added the capability had not yet been deployed and did not pose any immediate threat to American citizens.

If such a weapon were deployed, Russia would be in violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans putting weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in space. More than 130 countries, including the United States and Russia, are signatories of the treaty.  

"We are not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth," Kirby said. "That said, we've been closely monitoring this Russian activity, and we will continue to take it very seriously."

CIA Director William Burns recently engaged with Russian spy chief Sergei Naryshkin about the matter, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks. 

In bilateral meetings at last week's Munich Security Conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised Russia's pursuit of anti-satellite capabilities with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, another U.S. official said.

Russia has denied any effort to deploy nuclear weapons in space.

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