Russia To U.S.: Lift Sanctions On Space Sector Or We’ll Exit Space Station

According to Reuters, on June 7th, 2021, Dmitry Rogozin, the Director-General of Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency), proposed that Moscow withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025. However, this maintains conditional on Washington lifting sanctions on the space sector that were preventing Russian satellite launches.

Dmitry Rogozin was addressing parliamentarians prior to a summit, which is taking place later this month, between United States President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two heads of state will be convening for the first time since President Biden assumed office in January of this year. According to US News, Rogozin stated that Moscow was experiencing difficulty launching a few of its’ satellites. This was attributed to the United States (US) sanctions aimed at restricting Russia’s ability to import specific microchip sets required for its space program. As reported by US News, in a rare admission of weakness by a senior Russian official, Rogozin states that “[Russia has] more than enough rockets but nothing to launch them with”. Rogozin further adds “We have spacecraft that are nearly assembled but they lack one specific microchip set that we have no way of purchasing because of the sanctions.”

Additionally, US News reported that the US and other Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia due to its illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Interestingly, in spite of numerous accounts showcasing President Trump and President Putin’s good relationship, sanctions on Russia due to the annexation have been in place since their implementation by the Obama administration in 2014, according to Airport Technology. Importantly, Airport Technology also reports that additional restrictions have been meted against Russia for its alleged intervention in the US presidential election (2016) and US midterm elections (2018). In the last year, sanctions have also been imposed on Russia in connection to the alleged assignation attempt of a former Russian spy in the UK and state oil company Rosneft’s trading of Venezuelan crude.

Rozogin has said that Russia could withdraw from the ISS in 2025 unless the US lifts its’ sanctions against Russian space contractors in the near future. CNBC reports Director-General Dmitry Rogozin said, “If the sanctions against Progress and TsNIIMash remain and are not lifted in the near future, the issue of Russia’s withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners.”

According to the National Post, founded in 1998, the ISS is a multinational project consisting of two segments. The first segment is a Russian segment and the second is utilized by the US and other space agencies. US space agency, NASA, has stated it prefers to continue the use of the ISS until at least 2030. Last week, CNN reported that Bill Nelson, the chief of NASA, stated that a Russian exit could result in a new space race for dominance wherein Russia and China form a strategic partnership against the US. Specifically, India Today alludes to how China’s rise on the space circuit, with its nearly completed Tiangong Space Station, will increase competition for standing in the highly competitive space sector environment.

Reuters states that Russia’s relations with the US fell to a new post-Cold War low, at the beginning of this year, after President Biden referred to Russian President Putin as a “killer”, while numerous sanctions on Russia continue to fracture the relationship. Despite the factors preventing positive Russian-US relations, this month’s meeting in Geneva could change the narrative towards working together to collectively deter Chinese dominance within the ISS.