China, Russia Tout Space Partnership to Counter U.S.

Russian president Vladimir Putin / Getty Images
July 14, 2020

Russia declared its intention to avoid cooperation with NASA while it courts Beijing as a potential partner in space exploration, Ars Technica reported Monday.

"Frankly speaking, we are not interested," Dmitry Rogozin, chief of Russia’s state-owned space corporation, said of a possible joint venture to the moon with the U.S. space agency. Comparing American moon exploration to invading Afghanistan and Iraq, Rogozin said American officials "see their program not as international but as similar to NATO."

Meanwhile, Moscow announced plans for future space ventures with Beijing. "We respect their results," Rogozin said of the PRC. In space, China "is definitely our partner" moving forward, he added. Other Russian officials have touted cooperation with China in recent years as the two nations collaborate on energy pipelines and transport corridors in the Arctic. "Today, China is our strategic partner," Russian president Vladimir Putin said in 2015.

China has long worked to counter American interests in space. As early as 2007, the PRC tested anti-satellite missiles capable of disrupting internet and communications systems. If such an attack were successful, the United States "could be propelled back into the nineteenth century," said Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy professor and former Air Force adviser William C. Martel.

Sino-Russian military cooperation in space may have already begun in earnest. One 2019 Pentagon report detailed potential cooperation between Moscow and Beijing to build militarized space technology. This technology includes satellites capable of destroying or repairing other satellites in orbit.

President Trump authorized the rollout of a sixth military branch—the Space Force—in 2019. "When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space," Trump said at the announcement.