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Two Russian Cosmonauts Remain At Int’l Space Station — And Biden Just Sanctioned Russia’s Space Program
A Soyuz MS-20 space craft is seen on a monitor after undocking from the the International Space Station (ISS), starting the landing of the International space crew including Japanese space tourists Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano, and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, at Mission Control Center in Korolyov, outside Moscow, early on December 20, 2021. - A Japanese billionaire is to return to Earth December 20 after spending 12 days on the International Space Station, where he made videos about performing mundane tasks in space including brushing teeth and going to the bathroom. Online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano, who will be shepherded home by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, are set to parachute on Kazakhstan's steppe at 0313 GMT Monday. Their journey marked Russia's return to space tourism after a decade-long pause that saw the rise of competition from the United States. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden announced new sanctions Thursday designed to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching a full-scale invasion into Ukraine.

Among those sanctions were measures that Biden said, “will degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program.”

“Biden says that today the US is blocking multiple large Russian banks including VTB, sanctioning Russian elites and family members, cutting off Russia’s high tech imports which will prevent them from modernizing multiple industries such as their space program,” CNN National Security correspondent Kylie Atwood reported.

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war, and now he and this country will bear the consequences. Today, I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia,” Biden said as he announced the new sanctions. “We estimate that we’ll cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports. That will strike a blow to their ability to continue to modernize their military. It’ll degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program.”

But sanctions that impact the Russian space program directly could potentially complicate matters — and relationships — aboard the International Space Station (ISS), as CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher noted.

“Biden announces that new sanctions against Russia ‘will degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program.’ No mention of the partnership at the International Space Station where 4 NASA astronauts, 2 Russian cosmonauts, & 1 European astronaut are currently on board,” she tweeted.

According to a report from the Associated Press published just one day earlier, however, experts do not expect tensions on the ground to spill over into the ISS and its continuing mission.

According to the AP’s report:

Tensions in eastern Ukraine and heightened Western fears of a Russian invasion should not have a significant impact on the International Space Station or U.S.-Russia cooperation in space, the former head of the National Space Council told The Associated Press.

Scott Pace, who served as executive secretary of the space council under President Donald Trump and is now the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said the space station “has been largely isolated” from political events.

“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,” said Pace. “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.”

In order to keep conflict on the ground from creating tensions at the ISS, Congress has previously designed sanctions to include a carveout exempting space cooperation, but Biden’s comments at Thursday’s press conference — promising that sanctions would cripple the Russian space program going forward — could signal a change in that particular strategy.

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