Press Release

Academy Paper Examines Russian and Chinese Views of U.S. Plans for Space Weapons


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Russian and Chinese responses to U.S. military plans to dominant space are examined in a new white paper published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The paper discusses the implications for Russia and China of current U.S. military plans to develop missile-defense systems and to seek military control of outer space.

Russia and China have much to lose if the United States were to pursue the space weapons programs laid out in U.S. military planning documents, argue arms control experts Pavel Podvig and Hui Zhang in Russian and Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Plans in Space. U.S. actions could affect Russia's and China's national security interests, and commercial and civilian space activities. The two nations would have no choice but to respond to U.S. threats, the authors assert, and those responses or countermeasures, such as withdrawing from arms control agreements, could undermine the already fragile nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The white paper is available online at

Podvig describes Russian's main security concern as maintaining strategic parity with the United States. This parity will be destroyed by U.S. missile-defense systems and space-based weapons, and Podvig suggests that Russia is most likely to respond with “asymmetric” countermeasures, such as extending the service life of multiple-warhead ballistic missiles. Podvig warns such countermeasures will be “the most significant and the most dangerous global effects of new military developments.”

Zhang describes China's concern that U.S. missile-defense and space-weapon plans threaten China's nuclear deterrent capability, which is based on its retaliatory capability after absorbing a nuclear attack. U.S. missile-defense systems and space-based weapons could neutralize this retaliatory capability. China's options for response, as detailed by Zhang, include building more intercontinental ballistic missiles, adopting countermeasures against missile defense, developing anti-satellite weapons – which China tested in January 2007 – and reconsidering its commitments on arms control. Zhang concludes that “U.S. space weaponization plans would have potentially disastrous effects on international security and the peaceful use of outer space. This would not benefit any country's security interests.”

Russian and Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Plans in Space was produced by the American Academy's project on Reconsidering the Rules of Space. The project convenes experts from diverse fields to propose an international framework for the future use of space – commercial, scientific, and military. Previous project publications consider the physical laws governing military and nonmilitary space operations; United States space policy; and the history, development and principles behind China's nuclear policy. A forthcoming paper provides a comprehensive review of U.S. military plans for space. The project is supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. More information, as well as downloads of publications, are available at

Pavel Podvig is a research associate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Hui Zhang works on the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science, technology and global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., the Academy's work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world. (




Reconsidering the Rules of Space

John David Steinbruner