If it seems like you’ve heard this story before, that’s because you have. Last month, Russia threatened to allow the International Space Station to crash into the atmosphere (and potentially some populated location) unless the west ended its economic war against them. They also suggested that an American astronaut might wind up being stranded up there. Neither of those things wound up happening, but as of yesterday, the head of Roscosmos said that they were pulling the trigger and cutting off cooperation on the project until all of the “illegal” sanctions were lifted. Unfortunately, they do have a bit of leverage on this issue, though the other partners in the enterprise should be able to get around those challenges. (Newsweek)
Russia will end its cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) and cease working with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) due to western sanctions against the country.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday morning as he slammed sanctions he said were designed to “kill” the Russian economy…
Tweeting in Russia, Rogozin wrote: “Sanctions from the U.S., Canada, the European Union and Japan are aimed at blocking financial, economic and production activities of our high-tech enterprises.”
It’s unlikely that Russia will immediately halt all operations at the ISS because they still have their own people up there who need to come home. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause serious problems. As Rogozin pointed out in a separate message, Russia’s spacecraft are the only vehicles equipped to bring fuel to the space station, and their rockets engines are used to perform emergency navigation capabilities to move the ISS out of the way of potentially damaging space debris.
My knee-jerk reaction to this announcement was an impulse to take a page from some Ukrainian troops on Snake Island and tell Roscosmos to go eff themselves. After all, in terms of ferrying astronauts back and forth, Elon Musk already has four crew dragons in rotation that are capable of doing the job. (Yes, SpaceX recently announced they were halting production on new crew dragons, but I’m sure he could restart that work on short notice.) And I’m confident that Musk could modify the cargo dragons to carry some fuel if that’s required and a docked dragon could probably push the ISS around a bit if need be. Given how quick he was to help the Ukrainian people with his Starlink internet service and his offer to battle Vladimir Putin in single combat, he would probably jump at the opportunity.
But that would still be a shame if it were to happen. Mankind’s exploration of space is one of the precious few areas where we still maintain international cooperation that generally avoids the complications of geopolitics. Everyone benefits from these arrangements and many scientific advancements in lots of different disciplines have resulted from this work. But that’s really not up to us at this point. America and Europe aren’t threatening to walk away from cooperation on the ISS. This is all on Putin’s shoulders. If he wants to cut his nation off from these endeavors out of spite, that’s up to him. But this threat can’t be allowed to change our policy on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking of the war, have you noticed that there’s been an unusual amount of normally classified intelligence data showing up in the news lately? The Associated Press has, and they spoke to some government officials who say that this is being done by design.
Since Russia invaded its neighbor in late February, intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Britain have been remarkably willing to go public with their secret intelligence assessments of what is happening on the battlefield — and inside the Kremlin.
The U.S. this week declassified intelligence findings claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misinformed about his military’s poor performance in Ukraine by advisers scared to tell him the truth. On Thursday a British spy chief said demoralized Russian troops were refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment.
The intelligence analysts they interviewed said that all of these public releases to the press are intended to spook Putin by letting him know that he’s being watched and to make him question what he’s being told by his own people. I don’t know how much of an effect that’s having on his decision-making process yet, but it kind of makes sense. At the same time, you have to wonder how many of our sources inside of Moscow are potentially being compromised by these releases. We could wind up paying a hefty price for these choices later.
We’ll close with one somewhat amusing item that showed up this morning. Russian media was crowing over the arrest of a Ukrainian earlier today and the seizure of a “massive cache of weapons.” But as Tim McMillan was quick to point out, the photo that the Russians released reveals that the weapons in question were apparently a man’s collection of World War 2 military replicas. Well done, troops. (Click below to see the picture of the collection of replicas. It’s rather impressive.)
UPDATE: Russian media celebrates the arrest and seizure of what appears to be some Ukrainian’s collection of WW2 artifacts. 😐 pic.twitter.com/Ob8K6bPJlw
— Tim McMillan (@LtTimMcMillan) April 3, 2022
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