The U.S. has made it very clear that it does not agree with the way that Russia has behaved towards Ukraine, and last month NASA cut-off contact with Russia except for ISS related matters. This week, the U.S. went one step further and imposed sanctions that deny export licenses for any high-tech items that might be used to aid Russian military capabilities. Since Russia is reliant on imports from the West, this could jeopardize Russia’s plan to launch five commercial satellites this year.
This has royally ticked off the Russian government, to say the least, and they have now started to retaliate by threatening to prevent the U.S. from utilizing Russian space shuttles. In a Twitter rant, Rogozin wrote “The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry… We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions.” He then added that the U.S. should start to use a trampoline to deliver astronauts to the ISS.
Jokes aside- is this a serious threat toward the astronauts that are currently on board the ISS? Unfortunately the U.S. is dependent on Russian shuttles to get astronauts to the ISS, but given that it pays Russia a whopping $60 million per astronaut and Russia are lacking in funds at the moment, it seems likely that this is an empty threat. They’re shortly due a pay-out of $457.9 million from the U.S. for their services so far, which is an incredible amount of money to throw down the drain.
Two private American companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, are also hoping to be able to send astronauts to the ISS soon; therefore it seems unwise to make rash decisions that could badly backfire on Russia later down the line.
It's incredibly unlikely that these threats will lead to the astronauts currently on board the ISS becoming “stranded” in space as some newspapers have suggested, so there is no need for panic just yet.