China tested "a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile" that "circled the globe before speeding toward its target" over the summer, according to reports, while only days ago, Russia launched a missile that deliberately destroyed a satellite, scattering more than a thousand pieces of debris across space.
Both tests were the first of their kind for each nation, yet neither was exactly new technology altogether. In China's case, hypersonic missile technology dates back decades. Still, the new developments make tracing and intercepting them much more complicated. At the same time, according to the Washington Post, Russia's test, which was a repeat of a Chinese operation in 2007, was the first time the nation had demonstrated the ability to strike a satellite using an Earth-based missile.
"The abandonment of a credible deterrent in the United States is itself expanding the realm of possibility," national security and foreign policy specialist Jason Killmeyer said in an interview, according to the Washington Examiner.
Condemnations and sanctions "do not alter the trajectory of dictators any longer," he continued, stating, "What I don't hear is any understanding on the American side about how we would actually respond — how will we actually discourage this in the future? And the tools in our toolkit are sort of limited, particularly, I think, in an era of waning sanctions relevance."
The Russian military "recklessly conducted" the "direct-ascent anti-satellite missile" test, which successfully hit a Russian satellite that had been in orbit for almost 40 years, Department of State spokesman Ned Price announced on Monday.
It sent over "1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations," according to Price, who further stressed that the debris posed a threat to the International Space Station.
"Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations," U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, announced in a statement. "The debris created by Russia's DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life, and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible."
Meanwhile, John Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at the Heritage Foundation, highlighted the significance of the U.S. response to Russia's latest test as a potential litmus test to prevent future provocations.
"We have this opportunity and this need to respond to a provocation in space," he stated.