When are economic sanctions not sanctions at all?
I came across this news story today in which a Russian space official suggests the US consider using trampolines to get astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. It’s all about economic sanctions applied to Russia over its annexation of Crimea and other meddling in Ukraine. The Russian space agency, you see, has been hard hit by the cancellation of at least five launches. Except according to my friends in the space biz Russia hasn’t been hurt at all.
Space customers pay in advance, way in advance. All five canceled NASA launches were paid for long ago and the same for a number of now-delayed private launches. They may go ahead or not, it’s hard to say. But nobody in Russia is losing sleep over the problem because the space agency will actually make more money keeping the launchers on their pads than by firing them.
In time the sanctions may have some effect, but not for at least another year. At present the only people being hurt by these particular sanctions are Americans.
This is not to say the sanctions aren’t worth doing. Maybe they will be key to achieving US policy objectives. But they aren’t as they seem.