Enlarge / Expedition 52-53 crewmembers Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency (left), Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos, center) and Randy Bresnik of NASA, were all smiles last week before their launch. (credit: NASA)
Last Thursday, the United States overwhelmingly passed a new round of sanctions against Russia, taking the executive actions made by then president Barack Obama in December 2016 and putting them into law.
Congress also wrote its legislation such that the White House must get Congressional approval prior to any easing of sanctions against Russia.
Despite some concerns about the law, President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill.
Obama leveled these sanctions, including the dismissal of many Russian diplomats in the United States, following credible reports that the foreign adversary had meddled in the US presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin took no action at the time, believing he could work with President Trump to ease the restrictions.
But after the Congressional action, Putin acted this weekend to remove hundreds of US diplomats from Russia.
The number of US diplomats and Russian nationals employed as staff by the US government must now be 455, the same number Russia has in the United States.
In its most recent round of sanctions, the US government took care to carve out exceptions for key industries, including aerospace.
This allows the American rocket company United Launch Alliance to continue to procure RD-180 engines for its Altas V rocket, and for NASA to continue smooth relations with Russia for its partnership with the International Space Station.
Three astronauts, from NASA, Italy, and Russia, launched aboard a Russian spacecraft Friday to the station.
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