Ultra-right-wing head of the Russian government space administration, Dmitry Rogozin was dis-invited to visit the United States, according to a spokeswoman for NASA.
The visit to the US by the head of Roscosmos, Russian’s equivalent to NASA, was indefinitely postponed in response to the vociferous response by Senate Democrats, who threatened congressional action to prevent Rogozin from coming. Rogozin is an ultranationalist who has voiced homophobic rhetoric as well as racist and anti-USA opinions in his former position as deputy prime minister. His biggest blemish as far as a possible US visit is his role in the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, which earned him US sanctions.
Removing or undermining the West’s sanctions against Russia has been a priority of President Putin, and the visit by Rogozin, who was scheduled to speak at Rice University during his visit to Houston was the perfect way to loosen those sanctions in a high-profile way.
From the point of view of the United States the sanctions against Rogozin also harms NASA, which is working on improving cooperation between Russia and the US for parts of its space program. Jim Bridenstine, head of NASA, was looking to improving relations between the two countries when he extended the invitation. Unfortunately, he was not aware of what a tempest the invitation would cause.
One day after the congress threatened to block the visit, Bridenstine sent word to Roscosmos that the visit was cancelled:
“NASA has informed the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, that the proposed visit of Roscosmos Director General, Dr. Dimitry Rogozin, currently planned for February 2019 will need to be postponed,” said NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers in a statement. “A new date for the visit has not been identified.”