Biden Needs Russia’s RosCosmos and Rare Earths. His June 16th Meeting With Putin Just Got More Interesting.
Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Upcoming US Artemis Moonshot and China’s Rare Earth Dominance Will Push US To Offer Putin A Deal
As we pointed out yesterday, the new US Supply Chain Strike Force which seeks to isolate China from certain supply chains essential to the US, is unlikely to be effective without partnering with Russia in some of these as an alternative.
With US President Biden meeting with Vladimir Putin next week, these moves may start to be put into place. One hint this may be so is the position of NASA, which will be represented at the Geneva discussions.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has made various pro-Russia remarks, following talks with the Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin this week, stating “Despite the politics, and some of the rather less than soft statements you hear that sound more political, nevertheless if you talk to the Russian space workers, they want this cooperation to continue with the Americans. So I talked to Rogozin about this. I’ve said, ‘This is unique, the kind of relationship where we can be at peace cooperating with each other, no matter what our rivalries are on terra firma. We are partners in space, and I don’t want that to cease.”
Russia and the US have been working together on projects such as the International Space Station (ISS) for decades. While until Elon Musk’s SpaceX vehicle was recently able to reach the ISS, service flights carrying astronauts, equipment, and supplies have all been sent by Russian rockets since 2011.
Nelson also stated that “We’ve seen, for example, just recently Russia developed a new module that they are going to launch to the International Space Station, which I think is a pretty good indication that they’re not going to abandon it. Our politics have become very strained. But where is the one area that we have been able to cooperate? It’s been ever since 1975 when an American spacecraft in the middle of the Cold war rendezvoused and docked with a Russian spacecraft, and the crews lived together for nine days. Ever since we have been cooperating.”
A sticking point for continued NASA cooperation however is US sanctions on Russia, a point Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin made after his discussions with Nelson, saying that “We have nothing against cooperation with NASA, but the only way to do it is lifting the sanctions against Roscosmos enterprises.”
Lifting sanctions against Russia will meet with resistance from the EU in particular, where a vociferous anti-Russian lobby made up from ex-Soviet Union states retains a noisy presence. NASA has also fallen out of favor in terms of US spending, where it claims just 0.5% of the national budget, significantly down from a high of 4.5% in the late 1960’s, a period which saw the US place the first man on the moon. However, political apathy towards it may be changing, with the US needing a domestic, unifying grand project and calls for a US return to the moon and NASA already working on the Artemis project to do so. Getting there though may need some Russian assistance – as Moscow has kept up its technological space development during a period where the American’s have taken a back seat.
Washington will also be motivated into action by the joint Russian-Chinese plans to build a permanent lunar base and deflect any future US domestic feeling that America is being left behind.
Lifting some sanctions on Russia will also aid the United States in fostering alternative supply chains to those controlled by China. Suddenly, President Biden’s meeting with Russian President Putin on June 16 takes on rather more significance. A warming of trade and technical ties with Russia to allow the US Artemis Moon shot a better chance of success, and a need to diversify supply chains from China require the assistance of Moscow.
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