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Biden allays fears of Russian threat

No nuclear danger from anti-satellite weapon, he says

By Associated Press
Published: February 16, 2024, 8:54pm

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday there was no sign Russia has decided to go ahead and deploy an emerging anti-satellite weapon, the disclosure of which has rattled Washington this week.

The White House has confirmed that U.S. intelligence officials have information indicating Russia has obtained such a capability, although such a weapon is not yet operational. Biden said Friday that “there’s no evidence that they have made a decision to go forward with doing anything in space,” while he continued to stress that there was no immediate danger to humans.

“There is no nuclear threat to the people of America or anywhere else in the world with what Russia’s doing at the moment,” Biden told reporters at the White House during remarks on the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The president confirmed that the capability obtained by Russia “related to satellites and space and damaging those satellites potentially,” and that those capabilities could “theoretically do something that was damaging.”

But Russia hasn’t moved forward with plans yet, and, Biden added: “My hope is, it will not.”

The news of the capability emerged this week after a cryptic warning from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who urged Biden to declassify information relating to what he called a “serious national security threat.”

That declassification process had been underway when Turner released the statement, according to the White House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, raised the matter with Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and “emphasized that the pursuit of this capability should be a matter of concern,” according to a U.S. official traveling with Blinken in Munich.

The official, who was granted anonymity to discuss details of meetings that hadn’t been publicly disclosed, said Blinken will continue raising it throughout his meetings at the security forum.

Biden in East Palestine

Biden on Friday surveyed the federal cleanup in East Palestine, Ohio, more than a year after an explosive fire from a derailed train carrying hazardous chemicals, and saw up close the lingering hostility from victims still angry that he waited so long to visit.

The White House has said Biden was waiting for the right moment to visit. The mayor invited him.

Addressing residents, Biden said he wanted them to understand “that we’re not going home, no matter what, until this job is done, and it’s not done yet,” speaking of the federal government. He did not explain why it took more than a year for him to visit, nor did he address the community’s collective hurt.

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He praised what he said were “Herculean efforts” by the federal, state and local governments to clean up after the derailment and fire and, announced federal grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the short- and long-term effects of what happened and blamed the derailment on greed by the railroad company, Norfolk Southern.

The derailment didn’t have to happen, Biden said.

“While there are acts of God, this was an act of greed that was 100% preventable,” Biden said after local officials briefed him on the cleanup and took him to the site of the derailment. “Let me say it again, an act of greed that was 100% preventable.”

Connor Spielmaker, a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern, responded without addressing Biden’s claims of corporate greed. Spielmaker said the company promised to fix things in East Palestine and “we’re keeping our promises.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said last spring in its preliminary report that the derailment was likely caused by an overheating bearing on one of the railcars.

In his remarks, Biden also stressed that the federal government is holding Norfolk Southern accountable.