Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Has Forever How the World Does Science

Last week, 10 months after Russia invaded his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an unscheduled visit to Washington, D.C. to plead for additional aid from the United States to finally end the conflict. Ukraine’s nuclear power plants as well as Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. Among other measures, Zelensky asked the US to “strengthen tariffs” against Russia and make the war financially unsustainable. This will particularly affect areas of science and technology research where Russia has traditionally excelled, including physics, space exploration and climate science.

But despite widespread Western support for Ukraine, ending US scientific and technological cooperation with Russia has proven difficult. In many cases, resistance is coming from American scientists themselves, who argue that the work they and their colleagues are doing is too important and urgent to disrupt, particularly around climate change research. When global warming accelerates.

A few days before Zielinski’s speech, an editorial appeared. The nature The magazine stressed that science should not be treated as a “diplomatic pawn” and that war “should not stand in the way of countries working together” to tackle important scientific issues such as climate change. Michael Riordan, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, echoed similar sentiments. The New York Times Back in late August, declaring, “I’m a physicist who doesn’t want Russia to leave the world of science.”

Other people see things differently. “During the Cold War, Russia was a science powerhouse,” Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academies of Sciences in the US, told The Daily Beast. But Russian science has not been strong since the fall of the Soviet Union. When you look at the big issues today, like gene editing, I don’t just see Russia at the forefront.”

At the same time as Russia’s scientific contributions have weakened, Ukraine has emerged as a leader in science in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states, particularly in the fields of agricultural research and nuclear energy.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine last February 24, Europe responded quickly to cut ties with Russia, and that included science and technology efforts. Germany announced that it was ending all scientific cooperation with Russia the next day, and other EU member states soon followed with similarly comprehensive sanctions. CERN, a multinational particle physics lab in Switzerland and home to the famous Large Hadron Collider, suspended Russian membership in early March, as did the European Space Agency and the Max Planck Institute. ESA’s actions were particularly fruitful, as its joint Mars rover mission with Russia is now completely defunct.

When you look at the big issues today, like gene editing, I don’t just see Russia at the forefront.

Marcia McNutt, National Academies of Sciences

In contrast, the response of the American scientific community has proceeded somewhat unevenly. The Biden administration remained silent on the status of US-Russian cooperation until June. This month, he announced that the U.S. would begin “winding down” all federally funded research projects partnered with Russia, and new projects were banned.

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“It was very important for us to make a clear statement of Russia’s support for Ukraine in light of war crimes and other atrocities,” said a government official who was involved in the talks but has since left for another job in the administration. The Daily Beast spoke on condition of anonymity.

“But at the same time,” the official said, “we recognize that there is a strategic need to engage with Russia” to prevent the global catastrophe of the Cold War.

Since the beginning of the war, Russia has targeted Ukraine’s scientific infrastructure. The Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology in Kharkiv was heavily damaged by Russian bombs. At Chernobyl and other nuclear power plants and research facilities, Russian troops looted or destroyed millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment and computers. At least 20 Ukrainian universities have been completely destroyed.

To prevent the war from leading to the total destruction of Ukraine’s higher education institutions and possible nuclear annihilation, the Biden administration has avoided completely severing scientific ties with Russia—a policy the Office of Science and Technology Policy has called for. is formulated, which advises the President. On all matters related to science and technology. The government official said the four-month gap between the attack and the policy announcement was likely “a reflection of the nature of the American scientific establishment” and the “decentralized research community” in the United States.

Culturally, the science community has always been more protected from the international divisions that characterize many other fields of work. For many scientists, there is resistance to severing access and partnerships with groups caused by war. For example, one of CERN’s slogans is “Science for Peace”.

“There is ample evidence that many Russian scientists do not want to be part of Putin’s war. We want to make sure that these individuals have a way to engage with us or leave Russia if they do.” ” said the official.

Many of the people we talk to know each other, or have worked with each other in some form for years or decades. They are friends.

Raymond Genloz, University of California, Berkeley.

“There are mixed feelings and differing opinions within the scientific community about the appropriate response,” Raymond Genloz, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Daily Beast. “A lot of people we talk to know each other, or have worked with each other in some form for years or decades. They’re friends.” Genloz also chairs the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization funded primarily by federal grants. Its research is used to inform OSTP.

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A common opinion is that it is inappropriate to judge individual scientists based on the actions of their government. In fact, several thousand Russian scientists signed a letter condemning the attack shortly after.

But Russian science is connected to the Russian government. The majority of the country’s scientists are at least partially funded by the Russian government.

And in September, elections for the leadership of the Russian Academy of Sciences showed evidence of state interference: the incumbent president withdrew his candidacy the day before the election, in what he called a “forced decision.” He was replaced by Gennady Krasnikov, head of Macron, Russia’s largest chipmaker.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Macron in April in a broad panel of sanctions against Russia’s aerospace, marine and electronics sectors. Another round of sanctions in August targeted the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, or Skoltech, which was founded in 2011 as a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create Russia’s version of Silicon Valley. can go. MIT announced it was withdrawing a $3 billion contribution back in February, the day after the attack.

On and above the ground

Climate change research is one area where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace Russian cooperation. The majority of the world’s permafrost, which scientists track to measure the rate of global warming, is in Russia. Russia currently chairs the Arctic Council, an eight-nation consortium that promotes cooperation on climate change research. At dozens of research stations in Russia, international teams of scientists are drilling into the ground to collect samples of permafrost.

Shortly after the attack began, seven other members of the Arctic Council, including the United States, suspended their participation in the council. They have since resumed research without Russia. Some research has been moved to Canada and Greenland, which are home to their own permafrost deposits. But it still paints an incomplete picture, and may not accurately reflect what’s happening with permafrost in Russia — a big problem when a one-degree change can throw off the entire model.

“It’s the difference between ice and water,” said Brandon Kelly, a professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and a member of the International Arctic Research Center. “Unable to join. [Russia] There is a significant disadvantage. This would be a huge loss for us as we try to understand what is happening in the Arctic on a pan-Arctic scale.

Not being able to get involved [Russia] There is a significant disadvantage. This would be a huge loss for us as we try to understand what is happening in the Arctic on a pan-Arctic scale.

Brandon Kelly, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

The Russians have been major contributors to climate science, Kelly said. But at the same time, he “hasn’t been the best team player in terms of data sharing..According to Kelly, this has been a problem going back decades.

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In other fields of science, a clean break is nearly impossible. Perhaps the best example is the International Space Station—a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency, the first of which was launched in 1998. The ISS literally cannot operate without both Russia and the US, which supplies. propulsion and power respectively. Scientists on the station mainly conduct experiments to see how things work in microgravity, in preparation for long-duration spaceflight. For decades, it has been hailed as an example of international cooperation, between parties that do not always share the same goals in other areas of geopolitics. And the lives of astronauts on the ISS have always required the two countries’ space programs to insulate themselves from deteriorating relations in other areas.

But that insulation is gone as the attack progresses. In July, Russian astronauts on the ISS posted a photo of themselves holding up anti-Russian and anti-Ukrainian flags in an episode of propaganda that was “strongly condemned” by NASA. This month Russia announced that it planned to withdraw from the ISS to focus on building its own infrastructure, but later backed off and confirmed its participation until 2028 (with the station’s formal shutdown in 2031 a few years ago).

And in September, NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, collaborated to send astronaut Frank Rubio and two astronauts to the ISS on a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan.

Good alternatives

Ultimately, there is no simple process that satisfies all parties involved. “Obviously war is obscene,” Kelly added. “This is a devastating human crisis. But we also have a crisis with climate, and not being able to advance our understanding of where climate is going in the long term. Human lives and human health will be harmed. I don’t know how to divide the baby here. It’s not an easy call.”

By now, total devastation in Ukraine is widespread. About 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the war began, according to the United Nations, and Ukraine’s scientific infrastructure and nuclear power plants are under threat from Russian forces.

I don’t know how to divide the child here. It’s not an easy call.

Brandon Kelly, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

While many American scientists are hopeful that the conflict will soon end and they can return to somewhat normalized relations with their Russian counterparts, others see the war as a turning point that May encourage the West to rethink its scientific partnerships.

Some believe that Ukraine itself can help fill the void left behind by Russia. To this end, the NAS has set up a type of exchange program through which displaced Ukrainian scientists are placed in positions at Western universities and research institutes.

“Ukraine needs its researchers to rebuild. Russia has suffered significantly less from this war,” McNutt said. We’re not talking about Russia needing to rebuild.


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