July 01, 2014

Cold War in Space

It all began with the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 bill enacted by the US Congress* that blacklisted a number of Russians said to be involved in the prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Russian lawmakers retaliated with sanctions of their own on some US officials (as well as with the Dima Yakovlev Law, banning US adoption of Russian orphans). The affected Americans laughed it off, saying they weren’t planning a vacation in Siberia anyway.

The current round of US sanctions, triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its alleged meddling in eastern Ukraine, has kicked things up a notch: into space, and Russia has decided to use some serious leverage.

Since 1975 and the Apollo-Soyuz flights, space has been treated as an area of international cooperation that is – literally – above the Russian-American fray. And the International Space Station (ISS) has been held up as a major symbol of peace and human progress that defies geopolitics.

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