Cummings of the Daily Express, 24 August 1953, "Back to Where it all Started"
The events of the last several weeks surrounding Russia's invasion of Georgia and its recognition of the rogue provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have threatened to spiral into another Cold War and set US and Russian relations back to the early 1960's. No, let me rephrase that -- I think we already HAVE set U.S. and Russian relations back to the early 1960's. It's time to bring Henry Kissinger back into active duty, folks. The bad ‘ol Russia is back.
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Since that utterly brilliant move of our country to sign a missile treaty with Poland on August 15th, we've heard an alarming amount of increased saber rattling from Ivan and the UN has de-normalized its relations with Russia. There's been motions to expel Russia from the G8, although it doesn't look like things will materialize and our allies have backed down. With all this Presidential campaign stuff going on, and the distraction of another major hurricane hitting the United States, has anyone really been paying attention? That the doomsday clock just went"Tick" a minute closer to midnight?
Well, its time to pay attention, people. All this scary stuff aside - and it is scary and it is very real - there are other serious consequences to think about besides Armageddon if we can't start the warming process between our two countries again.
The first of which is Russian petroleum, which is the 6th largest source of oil imports to the United States. If our relations with Russia continue to strain, and either they or we break formal ties with each other, it's going to have a significant impact on energy costs. While 6th largest doesn't sound like a hell of a lot, imagine what might happen if we stop Russian companies like LUKOIL from doing business in the U.S., which brings in its oil from other sources besides Russia and is one of the largest retail gasoline vendors on the East Coast? Are we too gutless and desperate for energy to do something like this? Maybe. But if things continue to get worse, I wouldn't count this scenario out completely.
Then of course are our technological partnerships with Russia, the most prevalent being space exploration. Right now, we are extremely dependent on Russia's Energia company and their Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to help get our astronauts and resupply back and forth to the International Space Station when the shuttles are being serviced or when needed for additional capacity. According to current NASA plans, the Space Shuttle is due to retire in 2010. Well, if things go down the proverbial toilet with Russia, I think its safe to say that if we do retire the shuttle on the current proposed schedule, not only are we going to be stuck without launch capacity until our new Orion launch vehicle and spacecraft are ready, sometime around 2015 or 2016, but the entire International Space Station program is probably at serious risk, given that Russia's Space Agency has contributed a significant amount of its budget towards it. I'm not sure if it would be possible to split the ISS down in Solomon fashion, but it's gonna get interesting for sure if we need to put a Checkpoint Charlie on the Zvezda module and other Russian-contributed pieces of the ISS. Due to current events NASA is already talking about extending the life of the Space Shuttle until 2015 -- a costly and dangerous measure considering the age of those remaining airframes.
There are other areas in which we cooperate with Russia which could have serious consequences on technological and medical advancement. If the Bilateral Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement is revoked or terminated, it could have drastic effects on high-tech and medical science, particularly if we start sending Russian researchers housed in the US packing, and vice-versa.
And then of course is our overall Strategic Framework with Russia, which if revoked or nullified in any form, could have extremely serious consequences, particularly in the areas of arms control and restricting nuclear material from dangerous nations.
I'm sure I've only touched the tip of the iceberg of what could happen if we continue to allow US and Russian relations to spin out of control. Talk back and let me know.