Commerce increases sanctions on Russia impacting space commerce and trade

The Commerce Department last month announced that is increasing the level of sanctions against trade with Russia because it had determined that country had violated international law by using chemical weapons against specific dissidents both in and out of Russia.

On March 4, 2018, the Russia Government deployed a Novichok nerve agent in an attack against former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. In response, the U.S. Government imposed two sets of sanctions against Russia pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) in August 2018 and August 2019.

On August 20, 2020, the Russian Government again deployed a Novichok nerve agent, this time against Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, warranting a new determination by the Secretary of State and additional sanctions under the CBW Act.

While this ruling will have a negative impact on any space-related U.S./Russian activities, the full ruling specifically included these waivers:
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Trump administration to begin shift of space bureaucracy to Commerce

In an announcement yesterday at a space conference, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will give the Commerce Department the task of creating a new system for monitoring and managing satellites and space junk in order to avoid traffic conflicts.

The policy calls on the Commerce Department to provide “a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use,” based on tracking data compiled by the Defense Department. Commercial space ventures would also be encouraged to partner with the government on the development of data-sharing systems and guidelines for minimizing orbital debris and avoiding satellite collisions, Pence said.

In truth, I suspect that this is the first political maneuver in a long term plan to shift the entire space regulatory bureaucracy to the Commerce Department. Right now it is split between agencies in a number of different agencies, including State, NOAA, the FAA, the FCC, and even NASA. It is this complex and Byzantine arrangement the private sector most complains about. I am not sure why Commerce is getting favored, but it has appeared that many powerful members in Congress have wanted things shifted to Commerce for awhile, and so the Trump administration appears willing to go along in order to get the system streamlined.

We shall see if this streamlining really takes place. Often in government the creation of a new single agency to handle everything merely adds an additional layer of bureaucracy, because no one wants to cut the older layers.