The Washington Post published an article Wednesday about the problems the US may face down the road with the ISS. Russia currently provides Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS through an agreement that will expire after the October 2005 Soyuz taxi mission. After that, the US will have to pay Russia for additional Soyuz flights. That, however, would be in contravention of the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which prevents NASA from purchasing anything from Russia for the ISS unless the administration certifies that Russia is not assisting Iran with the development of weapons of mass destruction. With no such certification in sight, the US may soon be in a sticky situation with the ISS. There doesn’t appear to be any easy way out in the foreseeable future:
[A senior administration] official, who declined to be identified by name because of Bush administration policy, did not rule out eventual certification of Russian compliance, but said the administration has no immediate plans to take that step. The official also saw no way to use the “imminent” danger exemption as long as a Soyuz craft lifeboat is at the station.
Also off the table is the possibility of buying Soyuz spacecraft through intermediaries or negotiating a new barter agreement. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer told Congress last year that such tactics “would likely be viewed by many as an evasion of the law.”
There’s not that much in the article that is new, but it is a good summary of the overall situation.