I wrote a few days ago about Russia's proposal of an international mission to Mars. In that article, I wondered if the Russians could meet the financial obligations that they would incur if such a project were undertaken. The financial problems of the Russian space program are well-documented; they have, for example, raised money for their cash-strapped operation by licensing the hulls of their rockets for advertisements and auctioned off old test vehicles. Well, their problems go far deeper than that, and it now appears that this may be -- and probably is -- a way for the Russians to secure more Western (and, mainly, American) financial backing for their space program. A Mars mission would involve a long-term commitment of capital, which is not exactly in great supply in Russia these days.
(Thanks to the Captain for the information.)