Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday his country doesn't intend to use the International Space Station past the year 2020 and that this would effectively exclude the United States from using the orbiting laboratory.
The statement came amid high tensions between Washington and Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and the sanctions imposed by the United States. Rogozin did not draw a direct connection between those tensions and the space station, but said "it is really alarming to us to continue developing major high-technology projects with such an unreliable partner as the U.S., which is politicizing everything," the Interfax news agency reported.
Rogozin said that after 2020, Russia would like to redirect the resources now used for manned spaceflight to other space projects. Those projects were not specified in the reports, but he said the national space agency would be presenting a plan this summer.
Rogozin said that the Russian segment of the space station "can exist independently of the American one, but the American segment cannot exist on its own without the Russian one." However, he promised that Russia "will act completely pragmatically and will not place any impediments for work on the ISS."
Since the end of the US space shuttle program, Russian Soyuz spacecraft are the only way to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
The deputy premier also said Russia intends to sell rocket engines to the United States only upon guarantees that they will not be used for military purposes.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, uses Russian RD-180 engines as the first stage in its Atlas V launch vehicle, which is used for military and intelligence satellites. A ULA statement sent to The Associated Press said the company was unaware of any restrictions.