Russia’s space agency Roskosmos has signed the long-awaited agreement of cooperation with its colleagues from the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). The agreement intends to establish a joint space station on the Moon. It is expected that Russia and China will also invite other countries to participate in the project, thus creating an intriguing space alliance to oppose the US and the EU.
The signing of the agreement is another move by Russia to strategically distance itself from Washington and move closer to Beijing – something it has been attempting to do for quite some time now. It also puts an end to over 25 years of space cooperation between Russia and the US. Up until now, the Russian space industry was eager to cooperate with the US, with the peak of this cooperation being the establishment of the International Space Station.
Now, Russia has made it clear that it intends to take the side of China, even if it means being the “little brother” in the relationship. This move is also a way for Russia to refuse participation in NASA’s newest project Artemis that will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
It is clear that the balance of power between Moscow and Beijing has changed drastically since the Soviet times, and in no way in favor of the Kremlin. The economy of Russia, at best, is on the level of a mediocre Chinese province. What concerns technological development, Beijing it at least a decade ahead of Moscow. Even in the space industry, China is one step further of the lagging and corruption-gripped Russia.
In reality, the agreement between Roskosmos and the CNSA means that Putin and Head of Roskosmos Dmitry Rogozin have agreed to give up sovereign Russia’s ambitions of space conquest and will from now on mainly provide support to China’s space strategies.
Beijing will undoubtedly use this to challenge American influence in space in the long-term, as it will soon become the main arena of geopolitical disputes. China alone would not probably pose such a challenge to the US, but upon absorbing Russia’s experience it may prove to be serious competition for Washington.
Therefore, China’s plans most likely include the establishment of a space conquest alliance – something akin to NATO – that would be used to stop the expansion of the US and its allies in the Solar System.
Considering how incapable the EU has been looking on the international stage in the recent years, the only player able to oppose the joint influence of China and its new satellite Russia is the US. It seems that President Joe Biden’s administration understands this – the first days of Biden’s presidency were characterized by a very aggressive approach to US relations with China.
One of the goals of the new administration will be to stop China’s global ambitions – a welcome move, because otherwise the entire civilized world risks ending up in the grips of the “red dragon”.
However, Biden’s administration must not focus solely on the current threats, but should consider long-term ones as well – and it is very likely that these threats will arise from space. President Biden must be decisive and strict not only regarding China’s expansion across the globe, but in space as well. This has the potential of becoming one of the most difficult and significant tasks of Biden’s presidency – the head of the “red dragon” must be cut off before it reaches space.