U.S. Faces “Serious National Security Threat” from Russian Nuclear-Space Weapon

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Feb 17, 2024

The United States and its allies are under a “serious national security threat” as Russia develops a space-based nuclear weapon. U.S. satellites targeted by Russian space weapon in development, sources say to NBC News.

While the weapon is not operational yet, Russia’s development of this weapon is raising concerns within the U.S. Let’s break down everything we know so far.

U.S. Lawmaker Urges Declassification Over Unnamed Foreign Threat

The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Turner, calls on the White House to declassify information about an unnamed “serious national security threat” related to a “destabilizing foreign military capability.”

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Turner did not provide any further details in his statement about the threat. ABC News was the first to report that Turner was referring to a Russian nuclear anti-satellite weapon after Turner’s statement.

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Russia Is Reportedly Developing Space-Based Weapon

Three sources told NBC News that Turner is referring to the Russian efforts the develop a space-based nuclear weapon.

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A CGI rendering of a satellite in space hovering over Earth

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This weapon boasts the ability to cripple U.S. civilian communications, navigation, military operations, and intelligence gathering by taking out the vital satellites supporting them. These satellites are the backbone of the day-to-day life of every American.

Lawmakers Walk a Tightrope

While the nuclear weapon would not drop onto Earth, the weapon is “very concerning and very sensitive,” with one source telling ABC News that this is “a big deal.” Congress is seemingly alarmed about the project but does not want the public’s fear to add fuel to the fire.

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“We are going to work together to address this matter, as we do all sensitive matters that are classified,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters at the Capitol (via ABC News). “But we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel.”

"Urgent Threat" Serious, But No Panic Needed

Other members of the House Intelligence Committee also believe that there is no “cause for panic.”

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Media tents and television satellite trucks sit parked outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. District Court House on August 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. A federal grand jury is considering evidence brought by special counsel Jack Smith into former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

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Despite the news and the “significant” warning that Turner gave to President Biden, Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat and the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, says it “is a worthwhile discussion but it is not a discussion to be had in public.”

Congressional Policy Makers Should Know According to Turner and Himes

A letter sent to members of Congress from Turner and Himes, obtained by ABC News, indicated the threat is linked to “a destabilizing foreign military capability that should be known by all Congressional Policy Makers.”

The international space station hovering over the Earth in space

Source: NASA's Marshall Space Flight/Flickr

Senior U.S. military officers have also voiced concern about the space-based nuclear weapon from Russian and Chinese efforts.

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Congress Members Want President Biden to Take the Threat Seriously

This is one of several “very volatile things that we have to address,” Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. said. “This is something that requires our attention. There’s no doubt. It’s not an immediate crisis but certainly something we have to be very serious about.”

The U.S. Capitol building during the day with a cloud hover above it

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Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said he urges all members of Congress to look at the intelligence, saying, “I urge the president to take this matter seriously, as well. And it’s not a political issue. It’s something that needs the attention of members of Congress and the executive branch.”

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White House to Brief Congress on Threat This Week

Lawmakers convened in the SCIF, the Capitol’s highly secure basement chamber reserved for discussing the most sensitive classified information, where they grappled with the details of the “destabilizing” weapon.

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) arrives for a briefing at the U.S. Capitol on February 14, 2024 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, Turner released a public statement warning members of Congress about a "serious national security threat" without giving any information about the nature of the threat and demanded that President Joe Biden declassify the information.

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White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed shock at Congressman Turner’s public statement, emphasizing that a planned briefing to discuss the same information was already scheduled for Thursday.

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Biden Addressing the Concern

According to two U.S. officials, Biden and other White House leaders have been tracking the national security threat for some time. White House officials believe that this is a “serious” matter, but that there is no way to “contain” the threat without triggering mass panic.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the Senate's recent passage of the National Security Supplemental Bill, which provides military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, in the State Dining Room of the White House on February 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. During his remarks Biden urged House Republicans and U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) to move the legislation through the House of Representatives.

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“Americans understand that there are a range of threats and challenges in the world that we are dealing with every single day,” Sullivans says to reporters, declining to comment further on the subject.

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The Gang of Eight Is Discussing What to Do Next

“I am confident that President Biden, in the decisions that he is taking, is going to ensure the security of the American people,” Sullivan said. “I reached out earlier this week to the Gang of Eight,” which are the leaders of both parties in both chambers of Congress and the ranking intelligence members, “to offer myself up for a personal briefing.”

An image of a U.S. space freighter hovering in space over Earth

Source: NASA Johnson Space Center/Flickr

This announcement comes after former President Donald Trump said he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries.

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Trump Encourages Russia to “Do Whatever the Hell They Want”

During a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump said he declared that he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries, which includes 31 countries around Europe and North America if they did not contribute enough to part of the alliance’s mutual protection agreement.

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to supporters after speaking at a Get Out The Vote rally at the North Charleston Convention Center on February 14, 2024 in North Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina holds its Republican primary on February 24.

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Trump said he would even urge Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to those countries.

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Same Idea, Different Crowd

During Trump’s recent rally in South Carolina, saying. “If they’re not going to pay, we’re not going to protect, OK? … One of the heads of the countries stood up and said, ‘Does that mean that if we don’t pay the bills that you’re not going to protect us?’ I said, ‘That’s exactly what it means, exactly. I’m not going to protect you,'” Trump told the crowd.

Supporters listen as Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Get Out The Vote rally at the North Charleston Convention Center on February 14, 2024 in North Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina holds its Republican primary on February 24.

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Though similar to past remarks, Trump avoided explicit encouragement of Russian aggression.

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