The Technological and Economic impact of a New Cold War

The Technological and Economic impact of a New Cold War

Summary:  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.

TOPICS: Nasa / Space


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.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

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.

Topic: Nasa / Space


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Private space transportation

    Interestingly, the weakening US-Russian relationship may end up being very good for the US private space industry. Even before the latest souring of relations, NASA made contingency plans to limit dependency on Soyuz and avoid relying on the Russian space program any more than they had to. The Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program puts $500 million of funding toward demonstration flights for ISS cargo resupply and recovery, and also includes specifications, though currently not funding, for crew transport. Two contractors, SpaceX and Orbital, are currently being funded for COTS demonstration flights and others are reportedly being worked with.

    While SpaceX has yet to sucessfully place a payload into orbit with one of its Falcon rockets, and news out of Orbital has been slow, there are still two years left before the shuttle's planned demise. SpaceX plans for three NASA COTS demos including a docking test by the end of 2010, and their launch manifest also lists several other Falcon 9 missions with other customers before and after the NASA demonstrations. If those flights go well they will presumably be awarded cargo contracts through at least 2015.

    Mishaps aside, cargo transport appears to be well on its way to happening, but crew transport is a stickier issue. Although both the funded COTS contractors are planning crew transport capability, NASA's budget does not yet include funding for that capability, and it may never. Test flights will have to go very well before NASA is going to approve flying astronauts on a relatively unproven vessel, but Congress will surely be more open to funding crew service on one or more of the COTS spacecraft if the only alternative is paying a hostile Russia for service on Soyuz. (It also doesn't help Russia's case that Soyuz has had problems with the last couple of landings...)
  • RE: The Technological and Economic impact of a New Cold War

    Cooperation with Russia at the level at which the United States has engaged has always been a chancy thing. Russia has never been more than one step away from being a criminal endevour. KGB became Russian Mafia and Russia has played the "democracy" game since the old Soviet Union was formed in the 1920's. The fall of the Soviet Union didn't change that. It only meant that the major players realized that administration of the old empire was economically untenable given a vibrant U.S. economy. A weaken U.S. economy, dependent on foreign nations opens the way for a push to a new Russian empire.
    • Nice opinion, send it to McCain, he needs it... :-) (NT)

      Solid Water
  • Typical

    Russia invades its neighbor, rattles its saber, threatens and intimidates its neighbors and the U.S. was the antagonizer by signing a missile treaty with Poland.

    Just goes to prove that, along with acting, writing a tech blog doesn't require a lot of intelligence.
    • Pouring Gasoline on a fire

      ... is not the way to get Russia to move to a less aggressive stance. Just because they started it doesn't mean we escalate it to a higher level of tension, particularly in a country so close to their borders.
      • Sometimes gasoline is the answer.

        If German troops reoccupying the Sudetenland area had been booted out by French and British troops, WWII might have been avoided. Probably not, but maybe. Sitting back and wagging fingers at them whilst saying 'You shouldn't do that!' certainly didn't have any deterrent effect.

        One thing history has shown is that if you do not make it clear to an aggressor that their behavior will not be tolerated, they will continue to be aggressive.

        As a separate topic... Where do the Russians get the right to tell Poland what treaties they can and cannot sign?
        • Calm down, please :-)

          Poland has all rights to sign any treatment they want and Russia has all rights to target its missiles on a military threat. ;-)

          If you do not know then the best shot at a ballistic missile should be done at a start trajectory since it can carry several warheads.

          You see, the problem here is not about safety since it was more safe for Russia and US to use station in Azerbaidjan to protect the whole Europe.

          Honestly to me the world nowadays looks like a mad house - everybody barks at everybody. It is a pity. Looks like that somebody tries to clean the Earth from population (like Saakashvili tried to wipe out all Ossetians and Abhaz)...
          Solid Water
          • I find it very odd

            that Russia considers a defensive missile system a military threat.

            Unless, of course, the military threat to Russia is that they can't bully you with their missiles anymore.
      • Which is simply

        a rephrasing of the tired old argument we had in the last cold war. "If the U.S. was just nice, the Soviets would be all cute and cuddly."
    • Read BBC, at least, please

      Before you advertise US media campaign point of view, please, do some research, read BBC about the region and who started the war.

      I read that it was Georgian troops who started artillery fire and then brought troops into Ossetia province...

      Bottom line, I think that James is right - the world changed and it is better for _everybody_ on this small Earth to maintain cooperation instead of applying excessive force (Iraq, Afganistan, Kosovo, Chechnia, Ossetia, Abhazia, Georgia)
      Solid Water
      • Of course Georgia did

        Ossetia is part of Georgia. It was trying to secede. You'll understand the situation a whole lot better with a little historical perspective. Google. Hitler and Sudetenland.
    • Typical is right!

      Has everyone forgotten how bent out of shape the U.S.A. got when the U.S.S.R. tried to land a couple of missles in Cuba??
      Now you try and surround Russia with missles on its door steps and think that's just fine!!

      Why Knot
      • Hm...

        Offensive missiles in Cuba planted by the sworn enemy of the US in the midst of the Cold War, vs a defensive system in Poland many years after the end of the Cold War?

        I'm not sure it's all that wise to put an ABM system in Poland, but I don't think it's comparable to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
        John L. Ries
      • As long as we're playing "moral equivalence"

        Perhaps you could explain why Russia recognizes and supports the secession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, yet fought a long war to prevent the secession of Chechnya.

        Only consistent principle I can see here is self-interest.

        I'm well aware of the circumstances under which the US annexed Texas and Hawaii, but Texas was internationally recognized at the time, and both happened a long time ago (I think Grover Cleveland was right to oppose the annexation of Hawaii).
        John L. Ries
    • Amazing ! And I who had thought

      that Mr Saakashvili's puppet masters had either
      allowed or encouraged (perhaps we'll find out when the
      pappers are released in 30 years) their creature to
      luanch a full-scale surprise attack on the South
      Ossetian capital, to which the Russians responded by
      driving out the invaders ! Just goes to prove how
      great our need is for intelligent commentators who
      were at the scene and know it all, like frgough....

      If I may be permitted to return to the subject of Mr
      Perlow's article - the [u]technological[/u]
      consequences of worsened relations between the United
      States and Russia - it may just be the case that the
      United States will be forced to give up its veto on
      Chinese participation in the oddly-named
      ?International Space Station? and instead, cooperate
      with that country on transportation to the outpost....

  • Great and not-so-great powers

    The attempt to push NATO right to the borders of Russia was foolish and short-sighted. It would be equivalent to having Mexico join the Warsaw Pact (if it still existed).

    The U.S. got kicked out of Vietnam in the last century, but now they're establishing commercial ties. Economics is a better engine of domination that Militarism.

    The U.S., like the empires of the past, is killing itself by overspending on the military, letting its industrial and educational base wither, and basing the economy on a series of Ponzi schemes.

    • Except that

      NATO was a RESPONSE to Soviet aggression. Berlin airlift anyone?

      Maybe someday, hopefully, people will finally realize that the United States and the old Soviet Union (and what Russia is rapidly becoming) are NOT morally equivalent.

      Let me tell you a story. I knew a man at Checkpoint Charlie. While he was on duty, a woman and her child tried to make a run for West Berlin. You may not know it, but the wall was about 100 years inside East German territory.

      My friend watched as the Soviet soldier on the wall took aim and put a bullet in the back of the head of the little girl and her mother, just yards from his position.

      I have little patience for idiots who claim the U.S. is the problem.
  • No cause for alarm (thank God)

    There is no cause for alarm. This is purely a regional matter.

    The Russians are playing a dirty and nasty game, but it is limited. And they were handed the chance to do so on a golden platter, because the Georgians have an extremist fool for president.

    There is absolutely no sound reason to suppose that a revival of the Cold War is at hand.

    Russia is at most a threat to a few parts of the former Soviet Union, none of which are NATO members. If the governments of those threatened parts keep their heads cool and won't let themselves be provoked, nothing will happen.

    Greeting from The Netherlands, Pjotr.