CERN's Decision to Cut Ties with Russia Sparks Controversy

Written by Henrik Rothen

May.14 - 2024 11:05 AM CET

CERN's decision to cut ties with Russia sparks controversy among scientists, with significant implications for future collaborations and funding.

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The recent decision by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) to terminate its collaboration with Russia has sparked significant debate among the scientific community.

According to Russian and European scientists contacted by swissinfo this move inadvertently supports Russian President Vladimir Putin's war efforts in Ukraine and sets a dangerous precedent.

Russian contributions to CERN's scientific research have been substantial. The decision to sever ties with Russia and Belarus was made by CERN's Council in December 2023 in response to the ongoing illegal military invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the decision in March, labeling it as "politicized, discriminatory, and unacceptable."

This unprecedented decision comes after nearly 60 years of scientific collaboration between CERN and Russia.

The collaboration began in the 1960s during the Cold War and continued with Russia becoming an observer state in 1991.

Over the years, Russia has made significant financial and scientific contributions, particularly to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

Financial and Operational Impacts

The cessation of this partnership will have notable financial repercussions for CERN. Russia contributed over 2 million Swiss francs annually until 2022, funding around 4.5% of the LHC's experimental costs over the past 30 years.

To compensate for the loss of Russian funding, CERN will need to secure an additional 40 million Swiss francs for the High Luminosity LHC upgrade project.

Moreover, the loss of Russian expertise and personnel is expected to impact CERN's operations. Approximately 500 scientists affiliated with Russian and Belarusian institutions will be forced to cease their research at CERN.

This includes scientists like Fedor Ratnikov from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, who expressed his dismay over the decision and its implications for scientific collaboration.

Political Over Science

Former CERN employee Maurizio Bona and other scientists have voiced concerns about the political motivations behind the decision.

Bona highlighted that CERN had traditionally operated independently of political pressures, focusing solely on scientific endeavors and promoting intercultural dialogue and peace.

The move to exclude Russia and Belarus marks a shift in this approach, with political considerations now influencing scientific collaboration.

Russian physicist Andrei Rostovtsev argued that the decision to exclude Russia from CERN serves Putin's narrative that surrounding countries are adversaries, thus justifying increased military expenditure at the expense of scientific research. Rostovtsev and other critics fear that this politicization of science could hinder future international collaborations and scientific progress.

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