Russia Threatens to Destroy U.S. GPS Satellite Constellation

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, this was a rather frightening thing to wake up to this morning. GPS World reports:

The Kremlin warned it could blow up 32 GPS satellites with its new anti-satellite technology, ASAT, which it tested Nov. 15 on a retired Soviet Tselina-D satellite, according to numerous news reports.

On the state-run Channel One, host Dmitry Kiselyov warned that Russia’s anti-satellite missiles would leave the United States and NATO blind if the multi-national defense alliance “crosses our red line.”

GPS is also used for civilian navigation, including to guide airline traffic and cell phone apps that provide routes to destinations. The destruction of the constellation would cause create chaos in the West and result in enormous economic damage.

The red line likely involves a possible Russian military invasion of Ukraine. Russia invaded its neighbor in 2014, annexing Crimea and occupying the Donbas region. Russia has initiated a major military build up of about 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, sparking fears of an invasion to seize more territory or even the entire nation.

The United States, NATO and other Western nations have warned Russia against invading Ukraine. An invasion could bring the United States and Russia into direct military conflict.

Ukraine was part of the Russian-dominated Soviet Union until it declared independence in 1991. Ukraine has long sought membership in the U.S.-led NATO alliance, which has been strenuously opposed by Russia.

In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the government warned that it was under threat of being overthrown. Yahoo News reports:

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a startling announcement that he had “received information that a coup d’état will take place in our country.” According to Zelensky, it would happen as soon as Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

Zelensky stopped short of accusing the Kremlin of hatching a plot to overthrow his government, but added that taped conversations suggest the possible involvement of Rinat Akhmetov, a Moscow-linked oligarch in Ukraine who controls much of the country’s media and coal resources. Ahkmetov has furiously denied any role in the planning of the alleged coup, but some Ukrainians, including investigative journalist and former parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko, believe that he is actively working with the Russian president to weaken Ukraine.

“This is the first time that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is connected with an internal political battle, when pro-Russian oligarchs, including Rinat Akhmetov, are trying to destabilize politics from within — to make Ukraine weaker on the eve of a possible Russian attack,” Leshchenko told Yahoo News.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ally Belarus has sent thousands of migrants to its border with Poland, where they have been involved in a tense standoff with Polish border guards and security personnel. The refugees are seeking asylum in the European Union, of which Poland is a member.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Balarus President Alexander Lukashenko of manufacturing a crisis to aid Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spoke yesterday with Polish Foreign Minister Rau to reaffirm our solidarity in the face of Lukashenka’s hybrid campaign on the Poland-Belarus border, which seeks to threaten security, sow division, and distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine.

Poland is a member of NATO, which could be called upon to defend Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

Russia’s Nov. 15 ASAT flight was widely condemned by Western nations because it created more than 1,700 pieces of orbital debris. The debris sent the seven occupants of the International Space Station (ISS) scurrying for the safety of their Crew Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft in case debris punctured the facility.

NASA also postponed a planned spacewalk this week due to concern over debris. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the debris was related to the ASAT test.

Western experts were puzzled by why Russia would have put its own cosmonauts involved in a high-profile international venture at risk. They also questioned whether the ASAT flight was a test of a weapons system or a warning to other nations. The threat to the GPS system suggests it might have been the latter.