The US-Russia ISS Partnership

Marissa Herron

This paper was written for my National Security Policymaking and Implementation Course in the Feb/March 2022 timeframe when Russia was threatening an immediate withdrawal from the ISS. The paper addresses the policy question: “Should the U.S. continue to support the ISS partnership with Russia given the war in Ukraine?” The paper provides a brief review of the actors, the ISS agreement, and the purpose of the ISS. A “what’s at stake?” analysis of the ISS – Russia partnership is presented, and policy options are provided in consideration of the desired outcome. Worth noting is that this paper was written under the premise of Russia’s immediate withdrawal from the ISS. Hence, the timeframe for the U.S. to develop and pursue options was very limited. News articles this month (July) just announced Russia’s intent to withdraw from the ISS after 2024. This notification provides opportunity for the U.S. to reconsider the following options: 1) to pursue a cooperative, controlled disposal of the ISS with Russia, 2) to build a U.S. reboost capability, and 3) to detach the U.S. and Russian segments (if deemed necessary). Considering NASA prefers to continue ISS operations to 2030, they will likely prioritize the development of a U.S. reboost capability. Regardless of the path chosen, the ISS remains an example of a technology contribution that enabled a successful, international partnership and a symbol of prestige for the many nations involved.