Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has become one of the most vocal critics of the United States in the past few months, often using his English-language Twitter account to fire off insults against the economic policies which he himself is personally targeted by.
"The U.S. introduced sanctions against our space industry. God knows, we warned them: we respond to declarations w/ declarations, to actions w/ actions," Rogozin tweeted, later adding: "After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [international space station] with a trampoline."
Rogozin does actually have a point, although his threats carry much less weight than he may hope.
It's true that Russian shuttles are currently the only option for getting U.S. citizens to get to the space station, and the United States pays Russia some $71 million per person they get up there. In fact, Russia is due to get a $457.9 million payment for its services soon. If it really wanted to, Russia could stop U.S. astronauts from reaching the station, despite the fact that the United States funded as much as $100 billion of the space station's $160 billion price tag. Worse still, it could refuse to let the two U.S. citizens currently on the space station return home.
Thankfully, that seems a remote possibility – $457.9 million a lot of money for Russia's aerospace industry, and few believe that Russia would actually give it up. Plus, as Jeffrey Kluger noted at Time Magazine last month, Russia may not want to push the United States into the hands of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, two private American companies that hope to be able to send passengers to the station soon. So, while things may be a little awkward for a while, don't expect a change to the status quo.
Rogozin's comments on Tuesday are just his latest criticism of U.S. sanctions. At the beginning of April, he mocked Western attempts to targeted his foreign assets, tweeting, "Have you found my accounts, money transfers, real estate, luxury cars, yachts, etc?"
His criticism is legitimate – asset seizures only work if there are foreign assets to seize (or if those can be found), and, as The Post's Michael Birnbaum recently reported, there are few signs of sanctions on the street in Russia. However, when Rogozin asked those who sanctioned him to "send me your teeth ground in impotent rage," he may have gone a bit far.