Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Russia: Obama won't ban our Rocket Engines, so we'll ban them for him! Heh!

Speaking at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, President Obama mocked then-Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying the latter's stance on Russian, US relations was proof that Mr. Romney was "stuck in a Cold War mind warp."

Likewise, during a presidential debate in October of 2012, the President derided Mr. Romney and told him: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

I've argued, however, that the Cold War never really ended, although there was a brief hiatus in the Cold War, thanks to Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because President Obama has brought the Cold War back to a level that hasn't been seen in a long, long time:
Russia cast doubt on the long-term future of the International Space Station, a showcase of post-Cold War cooperation, as it retaliated on Tuesday against U.S. sanctions over Ukraine.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would reject a U.S. request to prolong the orbiting station's use beyond 2020. It will also bar Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites...

Moscow's response would affect NK-33 and RD-180 engines which Russia supplies to the United States, Rogozin said.
Wikipeida notes:
"For over 13 years since the RD-180 engine was first used in the Lockheed Martin Atlas III launch vehicle in 2000, there was never any serious jeopardy to the engine supply, despite an uneven record of US-Russian relations since the Cold War. But worsening relations between the west and Russia after March have led to several blockages, including a short-lived judicial injunction from the US courts that were unclear on the scope of the US sanctions on importing the Russian engine.

As of 13 May 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that "Russia will ban the United States from using Russian-made rocket engines for military launches", a frequent payload of the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle which powers its first stage with two RD-180 engines that are expended after each flight.
Aviation Week reported in March:
Recent tensions [between the US and Russia] have prompted some to question the reliability of U.S. access to the Russian-made RD-180 engine, which is used to power one of two rockets that loft national security payloads into orbit... If Russia were to hold the RD-180 hostage, the Defense Department estimates it would need $1 billion over five years to establish production on U.S. soil.
Why is the United States using Russian-made engines for its military satellites?

Who knows, but Lockheed Martin signed the sales agreement with the Russian manufacturer in 1997 and started using the engines in 2000 when Bill Clinton was President.

Ironically, a Federal Court in April issued a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from making payments to the Russian company that manufactures the RD-180 rocket engines. The temporary injunction was put in place because some had argued that some of the cash could end up in the hands of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin Rogozin, who is one of several Russian officials sanctioned by the Obama Administration.

The Obama administration, however, countered the Federal Court's decision, as Space Review explained:
By the following Tuesday, May 6, the three departments weighed in through separate letters. Officials with both the Treasury and State Departments concluded that the sanctions on Rogozin did not apply to RD-180 purchases since the government had not confirmed that Rogozin directly profited from them.

The current executive order, wrote State Department principal deputy legal advisor Mary McLeod, requires the Treasury and State Departments “make an affirmative determination to trigger blocking by the ‘controlled by’ provisions of the order,” she wrote. “As of the date of this letter, no such determination has been made with respect to NPO Energomash ,[the Russian manufacturer].” The Treasury Department provided a similar assessment, while the Commerce Department deferred to the other two agencies.
"The government had not confirmed that Rogozin directly profited from them." "As of the date of this letter, no "affirmative determination" had been made. Sounds like an evasive play on words. Heh...

The Federal Court eventually caved in and lifted the injunction, with the judge stipulating that, “If the Government receives any indication, however, that purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash by ULS, ULA, or the United States Air Force will directly or indirectly contravene Executive Order 13,661, the Government will inform the court immediately."

But apparently Mr. Rogozin decided today that, since President Obama was reluctant to impose a ban on the US import of RD-180 engines, he would take on the task himself and impose a Russian ban on the export of RD-180 engines to the US. Heh...

Oh, well, sometimes hardened Cold War adversaries will fill in their counterparts' weaknesses, if necessary. Heh....

It should ne noted, however, that Mr. Rogozin qualified the Russian ban by saying: "We are ready to deliver these engines but on one condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites." Which means Russia would permit the US to use the engines for NASA's spacecraft; some of NASA's spacecraft are currently equipped with the RD-180 engines.

So, perhaps Mr. Rogozin will pocket a little extra cash after all. Lol...

It is also worthy to note that Russian news sources reported in the summer of 2013 that the Russian government, at the time, was already considering banning exports of the RD-180 rocket engines for military satellites. Whether that report was true or not is anyone's guess.

Bear in mind that while the Ukranian fighting did not break out until 2014, tensions between President Obama and his Russian counterpart already started brewing in the summer of 2013. Hence, there may be some basis to the Russian news report.

Conclusion: All in all, Tuesday was a pretty good day for Cold War enthusiasts. In fact, the Obama Presidency, in general, has been a tremendous boon to Cold War enthusiasts...., and to those who might be "stuck in a Cold War mind warp." Heh....

Nevertheless, President Obama might be interested to learn that, “The 1980's are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back......."