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    Bleak outlook for Russian-U.S. space cooperation

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - The directors of the various national space agencies involved in the International Space Station (ISS) program will meet to negotiate in France on April 23.

    On December 26, Russian Federal Space Agency director Anatoly Perminov said Moscow does not as of yet plan to take part in the U.S. lunar program.

    These events do not seem to have much in common: the first one is quite positive, whereas the second seems a bit negative. Unfortunately, grammar is not the main aspect here. In both cases, one can say that current Russian-U.S. cooperation does not inspire the same joyful optimism typical of the late 1990s. Moreover, both space powers may soon go their separate ways if this trend persists, with mutual rivalry inevitably setting in.

    Is this going to happen? Barring the possible deployment of weapons in near-Earth space, is this situation as bad as it can get?

    With all due respect for the United States, it is Washington that has initiated this kind of separatism. This is demonstrated by the U.S. national space policy, signed by President George W. Bush in late 2006.

    This document considers outer space to be the main aspect of U.S. national security and aims to prevent "undesirable" elements from operating in space and the deployment of orbital weapons.

    In effect, Russia's main space partner is determined to lead the global space program. No matter how terrible the deployment of space weapons may seem, the military aspect is not the main one. For instance, we have been living with nuclear weapons for over 60 years.

    In real life, the United States wants to head the so-called "active systems" now playing an important economic role and influencing the allocation of funding.

    It has been said that the United States will assume the role of a global leader in coordinating projects aimed at establishing a joint worldwide surveillance system, and this is not the only fact confirming Washington's global aspirations, Perminov said in late 2006.

    He said the "global access" demand applies to radio frequency access and export policy methods. The principles of this policy aim to ensure U.S. technological supremacy over other nations. Washington advocates a tougher regime for exporting sensitive and advanced technologies, and stricter guidelines on classifying information on the development of space systems. It is hard to contest these principles; and attempts are now being made to impose discriminatory technological cooperation terms on other nations, Perminov said.

    The fact that Washington has stopped mentioning the ISS conforms with the logic and nature of U.S. statements. Perminov said the United States is no longer setting forth any specific manned-mission directives.

    Russia would be unable to operate the ISS on its own, even with active EU assistance. The United States plans to scrap its shuttle fleet in 2010 and forget all about the ISS program.

    The Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA were expected to sign a contract on the sale of Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft in the near future. This would have guaranteed subsequent U.S. involvement in the ISS program. It turns out, however, that this contract will not be inked anytime soon.

    Russia and NASA are conducting initial talks on the purchase of manned Soyuz spacecraft and Progress freighters, the Federal Space Agency said in mid-January. Considering the rather complicated bilateral trade and economic relations, one can only guess about the outcome of such "initial talks." But the fact is that the ISS provides jobs to tens of thousands of people at Russian space industry companies on which the livelihood of entire cities depends.

    The Soviet space program received huge politically motivated appropriations, but the situation has now changed, and it is impossible to make up for financial shortages without close international cooperation.

    Any space program, primarily navigation and telecommunications satellite clusters, is now assessed in the context of its economic benefits. Moreover, Russia, which has a unique rocket industry, launches more space rockets than any other country and widely advertises its services on the international satellite-launch market.

    At the same time, due to a lack of funding, the potentially unlimited Russian market is so far reacting sluggishly to opportunities for using satellite technologies.

    But most west Asian clients are quite vulnerable to possible U.S. pressure. Moreover, historical experience shows that Washington will hardly keep silent if anyone steps out of line.

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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