NASA has no plans to cut ties with Russian space program Roscosmos — even as the Biden administration issues new sanctions on the Russian space agency as the Ukraine invasion unfolds.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden unveiled measures that will “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports,” thereby degrading “their aerospace industry, including their space program.” However, a NASA spokesperson confirmed to Fox Business that ties with Roscosmos will not be severed.
“NASA continues working with all our international partners, including the State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the ongoing safe operations of the International Space Station,” the spokesperson said. “The new export control measures will continue to allow U.S.-Russia civil space cooperation. No changes are planned to the agency’s support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations.”
When Biden initially announced his sanctions, many speculated that the measures could complicate relationships aboard the International Space Station, which functions as a joint effort among the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency. CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher, for instance, noted on Thursday that Biden offered “no mention of the partnership at the International Space Station where 4 NASA astronauts, 2 Russian cosmonauts, & 1 European astronaut are currently on board.”
A report from the Associated Press from earlier this week said that experts do not foresee tensions on the ground affecting relationships aboard the space station.
“It’s possible to imagine a break with Russia that would endanger the space station, but that would be at the level of a dropping diplomatic relations,” explained Scott Pace, who served as executive secretary of the space council under President Donald Trump. “That would be something that would be an utterly last resort so I don’t really see that happening unless there is a wider military confrontation.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden raised eyebrows by claiming that “nobody expected” the sanctions that his administration hoped would deter Russian President Vladimir Putin would actually “prevent anything from happening.”
“No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,” Biden said. “This is going to take time and we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about.”
“This is going to take time, it’s not going to occur, he’s going to say, ‘Oh, my God, these sanctions are coming, I’m going to stand down,” Biden continued. “He’s going to test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together. And we will, we will and it will impose significant costs on him.”
President Biden also appeared to take criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over his previous sanction policies. “This morning we are defending our state alone. Like yesterday, the world’s most powerful forces are watching from afar,” he said. “Did yesterday’s sanctions convince Russia? We hear in our sky and see on our earth that this was not enough.”