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Xinhuanet: Where are Russia-Iran relations going?

April 26, 2010


As a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran is taking shape, the latest developments in Russia-Iran relations caught the world's attention.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has recently told Iran that there will be "serious consequences" if Tehran keeps its stance on the nuclear issue. Lavrov's remarks were considered as the most serious warning Russia has issued to Iran so far.

Meanwhile, Russia also announced it would not support the final document of the international nuclear disarmament conference recently held in Tehran.

As a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran is taking shape, the latest developments in Russia-Iran relations caught the world's attention.

Many analysts are trying to find answers to the following questions: Why such a sharp turn in the Russia-Iran relationship? What is next?


Analysts say the following three reasons may explain why Russia has been increasingly tough on Iran on the nuclear issue.

The first is Russia's need to maintain a cooperative relationship with the United States. Since U.S. President Barack Obama took office in 2009, Russia and the United States are trying to improve their relations based on their strategic interests.

Earlier this month, the two countries signed a new treaty to reduce and restrict offensive strategic weapons after arduous negotiations.

Later at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the two countries also signed agreements to reduce plutonium, thus reactivating the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement which had been suspended for 10 years.

In the context of a general improvement in Russia-U.S. relations, Russia does not want Iran's nuclear issue spoil its cooperation with the United States, and thus decided to harden its position on Iran.

Second, Russia has its own needs to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. Since Iran turned down the International Atomic Energy Agency's proposal on nuclear fuel trading and has begun to produce enriched uranium, the process to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue has been deadlocked.

But Russia does not want to completely follow the United States and other Western countries which have been seeking stricter sanctions against Iran.

So the hardening of Russia's stance on Iran is based on calculations that by applying greater pressures on Iran and forcing it to make concessions on the nuclear issue, Russia could avoid a dilemma where it will have to choose either to offend the United States and other Western countries, or have a profound rift with Iran.

Furthermore, there are also inherent problems in Russia-Iran relations. Iran is dissatisfied with Russia's swinging positions on the nuclear issue and there are frictions between the two countries on other issues, including the incompletion of the construction of an Iranian nuclear power plant that Russia helped to build, and the delayed delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles.

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