Russia increasingly isolated by its self-righteous stance

Russia, which has drawn harsh international criticism for its invasion of Ukraine, has become increasingly isolated in the field of science and technology. Moscow should refrain from words and actions that further alienate it from the international community.

In the field of space development, for example, Russia’s Soyuz rockets were in demand for satellite launches around the world. However, Russia canceled launches of communications satellites that were planned by a British company in Kazakhstan and withdrew its personnel from a base in French Guiana.

Scheduling is important for a satellite launch. If a planned launch is canceled unilaterally, prospects are dim for Russia to receive future orders. It is inevitable that the country will fall from its position as a space power that, together with the United States, has led space development.

In the future, demand is likely to shift to rockets such as those privately developed by U.S. entities. This change should provide a good opportunity for Japan as well, but the development of this nation’s next flagship rocket has been delayed. Securing the ability to launch satellites has become increasingly important. It is hoped that Japan will accelerate its efforts to make progress with its development.

The fate of the International Space Station is also uncertain. The framework of the ISS, which involves Japan, the United States, European countries, Russia and other nations, has overcome conflicts between participating countries and remained in operation. As a result, the ISS has been regarded as a symbol of international cooperation.

Russia has played a key role in keeping the ISS in orbit, but the head of the Russian space agency hinted at Moscow’s withdrawal from the project, posting this message on Twitter: “Who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit?”

Given the long history of space development cooperation among these countries, a tweet such as this posted by a leading figure of a public organization is nothing short of irresponsible and cannot be overlooked.

If Russia adopts a closed-door policy as it did during the Soviet era, it will inevitably see the level of its science and technology decline significantly and will be left behind in the world.

The heightened tensions concerning Russia have also cast a shadow over the field of basic science. Some countries have canceled joint research projects with Russia, and academic conferences initially scheduled to be held in the country were switched to an online format.

In recent years, security concerns have grown over the handling of advanced science and technology. As long as harsh economic sanctions are imposed against Moscow, certain restrictions on its research activities are also unavoidable.

However, scientific knowledge is a common asset of humankind. At a time when international joint research is the norm, challenges such as global warming and infectious diseases cannot be tackled without cross-national cooperation.

Russia, too, needs to recognize this and change its hard-line stance, which will only exacerbate the situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 28, 2022)