BERLIN – One of the pillars of President Vladimir Putin’s new national ideology is that Russia should occupy the Soviet Union’s onetime prominent place in the world. That aspiration, however, keeps hitting snags in areas where the Soviet Union excelled, such as space launches and ice hockey. These misfires may present a bigger threat to Putin’s regime than falling living standards.
On Saturday, a Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellitecrashed less than 10 minutes after takeoff. It was the latest of at least seven Proton mishaps since 2010, and the second major Russian space incident in three weeks. Earlier this month, a Progress cargo ship failed to dock with the International Space Station, apparently because a Soyuz rocket malfunctioned. There have been plenty of successful launches, too, but the Proton failures have become so frequent that Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, the rocket’s maker, is facing mounting insurance premiums and difficulties finding foreign clients.