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Three Ways the U.S. and Russia can Cooperate in Science

U.S.-Russia cooperation in scientific research has had a long history. Since the early days of the Cold War, collaboration in science has often played a key role in enhancing the avenues of diplomacy between the two countries and leading to significant scientific advancements. Today, as hostilities remain high, the U.S. and Russia should continue to pursue joint scientific research projects across various fields to reduce economic barriers in the way of research, boost scientific expertise in each country, and increase diplomatic engagement on other issues. By cooperating in the scientific field, the U.S. and Russia could use each other’s resources for scientific advancement without building specialized research tools or developing scientific expertise that may exist in the other country. Specifically, the U.S. and Russia can continue cooperating on the ITER project, space exploration and innovation, and promotion of civilian research projects.

American and Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Space Exploration

Through crew exchanges, cost-sharing, and joint space exploration projects, the U.S. and Russia can continue cooperating in space, especially with the International Space Station (ISS).

Remaining the best-known example of international scientific research and collaboration, the International Space Station can be another vector of diplomacy. The potential withdrawal of the United States from the project or efforts to force Russia out would seriously damage the already-strained relations between the United States and Russia. Ongoing collaboration between the U.S. and Russia is essential to minimize the costs of orbit, station maintenance and supply, and conducting research. The facilities required for launches, special equipment manufacturing, and astronaut training are expensive for Russia and the U.S. The ISS has made it easier to use equipment and exchange facilities to reduce the overall cost to reduce space missions. By remaining open to collaboration in space, both the U.S. and Russia will benefit from the increased levels of innovation and cost savings generated by market competition between commercial suppliers in each country, thus benefiting each other’s economies.

In addition to these benefits, crew exchanges are another vector for diplomacy: the exchanges and cooperation between astronauts and cosmonauts would mitigate the deterioration in US-Russian relations. Crew exchange provides important contacts and relationships between U.S. and Russian space agencies, and astronauts and cosmonauts can hold joint press conferences and organize events to alleviate animosity that often roadblocks the avenues of diplomacy for foreign policymakers of both countries. Cooperation on the International Space Stations remains one of the only positive areas between the U.S. and Russia and should be continued.

Civilian Research Projects

The United States and Russia can continue to promote joint research initiatives between the two countries. They reduce research costs, establish linkages between the two countries, and improve research rates and living standards in both countries. Some of the past research projects included a joint effort to identify and combat “black carbon” in the Arctic, research in chemistry, and the development of the Borexino detector. Pursuing civilian research between the United States and Russia has a long history dating back to the Cold War, long being a source of long-standing cooperation between the two countries. By leveraging each other’s specialized facilities and personnel, unrealizable research breakthroughs can happen much sooner than they otherwise would.

By continuing funding, or even boosting funding, to these research projects, the U.S. and Russia will boost the amount of scientific research between the two countries and aid in alleviating diplomatic tensions and improving US-Russia Cooperation in general.

ITER Fusion Project

If successful, ITER will revolutionize renewable energy and reverse the tide of climate change.

Thirty-five nations are collaborating to develop and construct the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device intended to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers the sun. Since the project was first launched in 1985, thousands of engineers and scientists worldwide have contributed to the design of ITER. The United States and Russia previously committed to providing 9.1% of the funding for the project, with the other member nations responsible for the remainder of the funds. This crucial, potentially world-changing project has come under scrutiny in the past couple of years, but the U.S. and Russia must maintain their commitment to this project.

The goal of ITER is to understand and harness the power of fusion—the energy released by forcing atomic nuclei together—to create another renewable source of energy. If the ITER project is successful, it would mean a significant breakthrough in the development of fusion energy and may revolutionize how humanity receives and costumes energy. Instead of fossil fuels, for example, fusion is sustainable, safe, and clean, and if appropriately harnessed, can provide an effectively limitless energy source without environmental concerns. This project is one of the most premier examples of international scientific cooperation, and as such, Russia and the U.S. must maintain their allegiance to the project. Recently, there have been talks in the U.S. and Russia of potentially withdrawing or limiting funding for this project; however, doing so would ultimately mean the end of the ITER project as Russia and the U.S. are the most significant contributors to the project. Even if the project ultimately fails, the U.S. and Russia will still benefit from the connection and relationships that develop between the two scientists, which is vital for future scientific research collaboration.

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