Science and Exploration

Rep. Rogers Hates Everything Russian – Except Russian Rocket Engines

By Keith Cowing
April 22, 2015
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Rep. Rogers Hates Everything Russian – Except Russian Rocket Engines
NPO Energomash

Just when you thought that Congress was cutting ties to Russia some members of Congress are trying to sneak some rocket engine business past unsuspecting eyes.
There is a markup session tomorrow at 12:00 pm EDT with the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup. It certainly looks like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is trying to slip in language that would allow more Russian-built RD-180 engines to be purchased using tax dollars at the same time when Rogers is (otherwise) actively promoting policies that would punish the exact same sector of Russia’s economy for actions in Ukraine and Iran, treaty violations, and other bad behavior.

Let’s examine Rep. Rogers and his stance on all things Russian. In a joint 23 October 2013 letter with Rep. Lehtinen, Rep. Rogers notes: “The (Obama) administration can’t let Russia continue playing both sides against the U.S. and its allies. Selling Iran these weapons only increases Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapons capability and complicates efforts by the U.S. and its allies to prevent the world’s most dangerous weapons from falling into the hands of the fanatics in charge of the world’s most active terrorist state.” That’s pretty blunt and to the point.

In 2014 Rogers said “Mr. Chairman, when will we learn that we cannot respond to Russian aggression with concession? Putin responded, as he always does, by taking our concession and having his shock troops in Ukraine shoot down this airplane. We cannot continue like this. We cannot continue to ignore Russian cheating when it comes to our treaties. We cannot continue to allow Russia to misuse arms control treaties, like the Open Skies treaty. We cannot continue to allow Russia to foment violence on NATO’s borders. We cannot continue to ignore the concerns of our military and other national security agencies just to make Russia feel good.” No mincing of words here either.

Then there’s Rogers take on on Putin himself in an official press release in January 2015: “You don’t deal with a thug like Vladimir Putin by asking nicely. He breaks treaties, he invades countries and then stations his nuclear forces on their soil, and he cozies up to terrorist regimes like Assad’s, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and the mullahs in Tehran. What’s next? Who’s next? Concessions on missile defense and arms control only emboldened the former KGB officer.” Got it. Rogers doesn’t like Putin’s Russia.

As such, you’d think that Rep. Rogers would do anything within his means to keep money from flowing to Russia i.e. Putin – for any reason. Indeed Rogers has done that – but not when it comes to Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine. Russia, of course, enjoys selling its engines to the U.S. since the funds go right back to the Russian government.

But back to punishing Russia: things change for Rep. Rogers when it comes to Russian rocket engines – even as Russia ignores one missile treaty stipulation after another. If you read this proposed HR 1735 (“FY 16 National Defense Authorization Bill”) language for tomorrow’s mark-up session (See section 16xx) you’ll see language that Rogers inserted that proposes changes to the RD-180 legislation that would effectively eliminate the existing national security waiver and allow purchase of all Russian engines “under contract”.

The total value of ULA’s contract with RD-Amross (the mysterious intermediary brokering company who takes bags of money for Russian the engines on behalf of state-owned NPO Energomash) is valued at $680 million. This contract value was reduced by the earlier limitation on using Russian engines passed last year. Rogers’ new legislative wording would permit over $200 million in tax dollars to continue to finance the Russian missile industrial sector run by the same Putin that Rogers otherwise hates so much. Moreover, instead of prompting domestic alternatives to the RD-180, Rogers seeks to perpetuate our dependence on Russia for an even greater period of time – all while supporting the exact same portion of Russia’s economy that Rogers has been so vehemently gone on the record as being against.

Confused yet?

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.