During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney presciently identified Russia as America’s foremost global threat. Barack Obama and his apologists immediately heaped scorn upon Romney, including Obama’s sophomoric “the 1980s called” remark during one debate.
History, however, has vindicated Romney’s pronouncement.
Reflecting upon events since that date, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stated in July 2015, “I do consider Russia to be the biggest threat.” And none other than Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford proclaimed that same month, “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I would have to point to Russia, and if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
To its credit, Congress acted accordingly. Following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its broader pattern of malfeasance across the globe, Congress, as part of two consecutive National Defense Authorization Acts, overwhelmingly supported a gradual phase out of purchases of Russian rocket engines through no sooner than 2020. The law could not have been any more accommodating without allowing indefinite purchases of these engines.
Sadly, today some seek to reverse that prudent Congressional action by sending some $540 million more to the Russian government for at least 18 new Russian RD-180 engines. Despite the law unambiguously allowing engines through at least 2020, they claim that they’re needed until a new domestically-manufactured engine arrives in 2019. Those claims, however, do not accord with reality. Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) summarized that reality cogently:
Today, we have two space launch providers – ULA and SpaceX – that, no matter what happens with the Russian RD-180, will be able to provide fully redundant capabilities with ULA’s Delta IV and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and eventually, the Falcon Heavy space launch vehicles. There will be no capability gap. The Atlas V is not going anywhere anytime soon.”
He further noted that ending reliance would not result in increased costs to the taxpayer.
In fact, according to [the Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation], the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today.”
Reversing America’s existing prohibition would merely reward Russian behavior and thereby undermine global and national security. As evidence, consider the words of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin:
The sale of engines benefits our engine making enterprises, in that they use the money for their own modernization… We need the most modern engines that produce more thrust. In order to design them, we need free money.”
Notably, rogue nations like Iran remain prime beneficiaries of Russian rocket technological advances.
The Obama Administration’s infamous “reset” attempt with Russia several years ago stands among its most costly foreign policy misjudgments. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake by failing to learn from our mistakes and rewarding Russia’s worldwide menace.