Photo taken by the rover Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) on January 11, 2019, shows the lander from the Chang’e-4 probe. China announced on Friday that the Chang’e-4 mission, which completed the very first soft landing on the far side of the moon, was a great success.
Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty images
Call it lunar politics.
This week, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, signed an agreement with the Chinese National Space Administration to create an International Moon Scientific Station “with open access to all interested countries and international partners.” It has been the most dramatic sign yet that Moscow sees its space future with China and not the United States, further underlining its growing strategic alignment with Beijing.
That follows a quarter of a century of US-Russian space cooperation launched by those who dreamed of post-Cold War reconciliation between Moscow and Washington. The highlight was the construction and operation of the International Space Station.
This week’s agreement also marked a clear disapproval of NASA’s invitation to Russia to join the Artemis project, named after Apollo’s twin sister, which aims to bring the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024. lunar surface more thorough than ever before, using advanced technologies.
“They don’t see their program as international, but comparable to NATO,” sneered Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Roscosmos last year, who had previously grinned a lot in Brussels as the former Russian ambassador to NATO. “We are not interested in participating in such a project.”
Rather than dwelling on what all this means for the future of space, it may be more important for the Biden administration to consider how to feed this latest news into its emerging approach to Putin’s Russia.
President Biden has no illusions about Putin and shows that he will commit when he concludes that it is in the interest of the US and sanctions where necessary. His first foreign policy victory was a deal with Putin to extend the new talks on strategic arms restriction that President Trump had left.
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 6, 2019: China’s Persident Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at a ceremony at Saint Petersburg University where Xi Jinping received an honorary doctorate from Saint Petersburg University.
Alexei Nikolsky | TASS | Getty images
That said, Biden, in consultation with the European Union, also imposed new sanctions on Russia following the poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. It remains to be seen how the Biden administration will respond to new or existing US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the most active issue currently at stake, dividing the EU and even German politics.
Whichever course Biden takes, he would be wise not to aggravate the mistakes of previous governments because of misconceptions about Russia’s decline or too particular a focus on Beijing.
“Putin does not exercise the same power as his Soviet predecessors in the 1970s or that of Chinese President Xi Jinping today,” writes Michael McFaul, US ambassador to Moscow for President Obama, in the Foreign Office. But Russia is also not the weak and dilapidated state it was in the 1990s. Despite negative demographic trends and the rollback of market reforms, it has re-emerged as one of the world’s most powerful nations – with significantly more military, cyber, economic, and ideological power than most Americans appreciate. ”
McFaul notes that Russia has modernized its nuclear weapons while the US has not, and that it has significantly improved its conventional military. Russia has the 11thlargest economy in the world, with a GDP per capita greater than that of China.
“Putin has also made major investments in space weapons, intelligence and cyber capabilities, which the United States has learned the hard way about,” McFaul wrote, referring to the major cyber attack revealed earlier this year after penetrating multiple parts of the US. . government and thousands of other organizations.
At the same time, Putin shows less restraint in how aggressively he opposes domestic opponents, defies Western powers, and appears willing to take risks to achieve a twofold motive: restoring Russia’s reputation and influence and diminishing that of the United States.
Henry Foy, the head of the The Washington City Times office in Moscow, explains a compelling story about Russia today under the headline “Vladimir Putin’s brutal third act” this weekend.
Foy writes, “After twenty years of Putin’s rule supported first by economic prosperity and then by belligerent patriotism, his government is now focused on oppression as the central tool for maintaining power.”
The world has seen that graphically in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader, and then his arrest when he returned to Russia from recovery in a German hospital. Foy also reports on a “snow storm of laws” passed late last year that cracked down on existing and potential adversaries. The final step came today (Saturday) when Russian authorities arrested 200 local politicians, including some of the most prominent opposition members, in a protest in Moscow.
Some see Putin’s increasingly relentless overrun of dissent and widespread arrests, amid the magnitude and breadth of protests in support of Navalny, as a sign of Putin’s growing vulnerability.
Still others see his actions from the 2014 seizure of Crimea to the seemingly last cyber-attacks as evidence of his increased capabilities. They warn of more brutal actions ahead.
Both views are right: Putin is more vulnerable and at the same time more capable. His oppression at home and assertiveness abroad are two sides of the same man.
So what to do?
The Atlantic Council, the organization of which I am president and CEO, got an unusual public metabolism this week of contending staff votes on the right course for dealing with Putin’s Russia.
The arguments centered on the prominent role that human rights issues should play in shaping US policy toward Moscow.
Wherever that issue comes up, which is hard to argue, Russia’s growing strategic link with China, underscored by this week’s moonshot deal, is just one of the growing mountain of evidence that proves the Western approach to Moscow. past 20 years has not yielded the desired results.
What is urgently needed is a review of Russia’s strategy by the Biden government, which begins by recognizing that misconceptions about Russia’s decline obscure the need for a more strategic approach.
It should be one that combines more attractive elements of engagement with more sophisticated forms of containment in addition to partners. It requires patience and partners.
What is needed is a strategic context for the patchwork of actions and policies related to Russia: new or existing economic sanctions regimes against Russia, possible response to the latest cyber attacks, more effective ways to counter disinformation and a more creative response to the growing Chinese -Russian strategic cooperation.
Overreaction is never a good policy, but underestimating Russia is the far greater danger for now.
The long-term goal should be what those at NASA hoped 25 years ago: reconciliation and cooperation between the US and Russia. Then put that in the context of a whole and free and peaceful Europe, where Russia finds its rightful place, the dream articulated by President George H.W. Bush just months before the Berlin Wall fell.
Whatever Putin wants, it’s hard to believe that the Russians wouldn’t even prefer this outcome to a Sino-Russian moon landing.
Frederick Kempe is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States’ most influential think tanks on global affairs. He worked at The Wall Street Journal for over 25 years as a foreign correspondent, assistant editor and as the longest-serving editor of the European edition of the newspaper. His latest book – “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth” – was a New York Times bestseller and has been published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and subscribe to Inflection Points here, his look every Saturday at the top stories and trends from the past week.
Follow for more insight from The Washington City Times contributors @CNBCopinion on Twitter.