Friday, December 11, 2015

Pondering the kindness of Putin

I noticed in my news-feed today that 3 more astronauts have returned to Earth this morning aboard the trusty ol' Soyuz. As pleased as I am with the safe return of these heroes and the ongoing long-term radiation experiments of the NASA twins, something more pressing struck me about the missions today...

Putin says you may proceed with your genetic space experiment, comrades.

Since the end of the Space Shuttle program around 2010 (something that I, as well as many others including the venerable Dr. Armstrong, strongly opposed) The USA has been completely dependent upon their former-rival-turned-partner Russia for manned launch capability. At the time, although this measure was adopted with seeming ease, there was yet some hawkish concern about depending on another nation for anything this important. Indeed, although at the time I thought Mitt was mad, Russia has turned out to be a far greater 'threat' to America than any other single nation. This was not at all the tone of relations between the two SuperPowers when we scuttled the shuttle. The devolution of relations has been severe and steady for several years now. First over the encroachment of NATO into The Ukraine and now over the sovereignty and terrorist issues in Syria. While I have always been a little soft on the hatred of Russia and hard on the USA, I think this is fitting as all to often the victors skew the narrative against the vanquished - and also the highest of figures should be held to the highest of account. I only make this digression to help show that I am not strictly sympathetic to the Russian side of things here. I very much appreciate and admire the gift of liberty that America has given to the world; yet I remain unconvinced that it is a valuable market commodity, as such.

Trust the Russians, you say ?
Our perception of Russia is always as the aggressor, an instigator of malcontent. Has our partnership over the ISS bourne this out ? It is an interesting thing to consider. It seems almost obvious to me that if the shoe was on the other foot; if Russia had dropped it's manned launch capability in 2010, there would be no Russians presently on-board the ISS. The fact that Roscosmos has not halted the transportation of Americans (and also other EU members) to the ISS, speaks very clearly to me about who the aggressors are in our current global environ. 

Should we truly imagine that the hard-lined Putin is graciously extending these services for the betterment of mankind ? If this is the case, then he is a more compassionate and considerate leader than what has been produced by the plurality of our institutions. I believe that the war-minded Republican houses would quickly leave Russians 'pissing in the solar winds', if they had their way. Obama, wanting to give the democrats a veneer of muscle, would likewise have quickly given space co-operation the axe in my opinion. This would have made him 'look tough' on Russia while still avoiding open armed conflict. 

Such a nobel fellow :P
I do not wish herein to portray Russia as some great bastion of moral supremacy on the matter. I believe that the Russian government would, by right and inclination, also enact these prohibitions. The difference is, in my opinion, that Russians fear direct American reprisal where America would not. 

I believe that any move by Russia to now prohibit the transit of astronauts would be viewed as an act of territorial aggression against the US, vis; purposfully obstructing the USA from transit to and from it's rightful territorial assets., etc. 

Notionally, I believe this is viewed in law similarly to a naval blockade. Let us say that there was a small island within Russian coastal waters. Then, let us say that the USA has been transiting passengers to-and-from the island using a declared neutral drop-point on another small island in international waters. So the USA brings people to the international island, then they board a Russian ship for passage to the island located within Russian territory. Declining to take people to the ISS would be viewed the same as refusing to transport vital passengers to the inter-Russian island in our example. 

This is a good visual for Putin trying to stop American space access, like, imagine that's
just a stick with a light that he has there...

In the water, the USA would have the option, of course, of sending their own boat through the international sphere, into Russian waters and to the island. We might infer here that Russia would view the transit as an incursion against the territorial sovereignty of their waters - and rightly so. In space that option (send their own unit) is not presently available, and so the potential damage to the colony in space could be that much more severe. 

Several issues come to mind in both examples; first-off, how did an American settlement end-up in such an obviously Russian-controlled sphere - why assume these risks and liabilities to begin with? Likewise, why put your space-transit abilities in the hands of another -often antagonistic- nation ?Supremacy of force and a desire to disseminate it can be the only reasonable assumption. Obviously the USA would be unwise to claim a dependent island in such waters - equally unwise to put ones faith in a potential enemy for something so important as space transit. It must have been assumed, basically, at the time the shuttle program was dissolving; if Russia says they won't take our guys they better be ready to face the full force of American Fury. A proposition which Putin has obviously not been eager to fulfill. 

Distasteful and perhaps harsh, but still a nasty tinge of truth as well...

No, I do not think kindness is a main proponent of Putin's platform in general, nor related to space-faring accommodation. I am pretty-well convinced that these space-transits are occurring only thanks to a gun at the head of Russia. With all the other tensions already encircling these two giants of war - would Putin honestly even consider to spark the conflict with something as trivial as the non-space based space station transits where so little is to be gained from such termination (except ones own possible destruction) ? Is publicly making a joke of the US space program worth a million Russian lives ? I think not. What I find most troubling is that America seems too keen these days to get that gun up to as many heads as it wants, thinks or cares to. 

When a country so important that has stood for so much good in the world at times, is degraded to holding the world ransom over any issue it needs resolved ... it becomes an example of the tyranny it once struggled to shrug off. One must at times wonder how long the tree of liberty can stand without being watered. 

I honestly hope that the tensions in Crimea, the wider Ukraine, Georgia, Syria and elsewhere can be resolved without any further escalation of armed conflict. Either way, I expect the shared-space program will endure until the bitter end - being viewed as absolutely inconsequential in every regard except seat-ticket sales revenue. If Russia was to take a stand on this issue, they would be attacked almost instantly. The entire Russian problem, to me, seems to center around their taking complete advantage of every moral cavity we have recently vacated... and for so little gain to ourselves, at that. 

Those who would give up liberty for security lose both, also I just invented electricity.
How can you argue with any of that ?

Either we owe Putin our sincere thanks for sustaining the space program through this phase, or we owe the deepest of apologies for turning an organization and it's instruments of peace, into a hostage situation. Either way, I fear we are quickly losing moral high-ground in the etherial relams. As above, so below ?

So we're thinking of expanding NATO to your door, but also like, can we ask you to
keep sending our guys to space, pretty pleeeease ?? :>

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