U.S. Cracks Down on Defense Exports to Russia


On Monday the U.S. State Department expanded its existing sanctions regime against Moscow, saying it will deny pending export license applications of defense articles and services that could contribute to Russia's military capabilities.

In addition, the State Department is taking actions to revoke any existing export licenses which meet these conditions.

“All other pending applications and existing licenses will receive a case-by-case evaluation to determine their contribution to Russia's military capabilities,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an April 28 statement.

In March, as Moscow consolidated its hold on Crimea, the State Department suspended approval of defense exports to Russia, a move that could have an immediate impact on U.S. and European space hardware manufacturers and satellite fleet operators who launch spacecraft on Russian rockets.

U.S. export licenses are required to launch U.S. commercial communications spacecraft—or foreign satellites containing U.S. components controlled by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)—on Russian launch vehicles.

If the ban on issuing such licenses remains in effect, the impact would be felt most immediately by International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., and Sea Launch International of Nyon, Switzerland; ILS markets launches on Russian Proton vehicles, while Sea Launch manages flights on the Zenit launcher.

In addition, several upcoming launches on ILS Proton rockets could face delays if satellite manufacturers and fleet operators are denied export license approval before shipping spacecraft to the company's launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

London-based Inmarsat is planning two launches this year of its Boeing-built Global Xpress mobile communications spacecraft atop ILS Protons. In addition, Luxembourg fleet operator SES is preparing for the launch this summer of its Astra 2G satellite, built by Airbus Defense and Space.

Space industry sources say the hold may also affect Soyuz launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, where launch consortium Arianespace manages commercial missions of the four-stage, medium-lift Soyuz.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

Bernard P. (not verified)
on Apr 28, 2014

Could Russia retaliate by keeping US astronauts off the Soyuz capsule?

on Apr 28, 2014

Yes. But the ISS is not simply a contract - it is a government-to-government pact, a treaty-level obligation between the five partners. Not only do the Russians need NASA astronauts around to keep things running smoothly up there, but withdrawing from the treaty would put Moscow in the category of international pariah.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 29, 2014

Right, only amerikanski have the right to declare "pariahs".
Mr. Adolf had similar exceptionality untill Red Army came to Berlin.

on Feb 20, 2016

The Red Army isn't coming to Washington. Not without dying enroute.

Luis L (not verified)
on Apr 30, 2014

amerikanski doesn't have a whole lot to gain from the space station anymore. americanski might be better off spending the money on its own manned space program.

on May 6, 2014

I can see the situation reaching the point where Russia starts refusing to transport any more U.S. astronauts to the ISS once current contract obligations are fulfilled, but they certainly won't leave stranded the ones who are currently in residence in orbit.

The United States (and much of the free world) may be knocking heads with Russia right now, but neither side is that cold-blooded.

I just wonder if we WILL reach a point where the station will have to be abandoned because equipment in both the Russian and American segments must be kept operating by experts from both sides. Neither "partner" can do it on their own.

Mr. Amerikanski (With a capital A!)

on May 26, 2015

Well, they could always call me, or that fake, Ironman.

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