Russian and Iranian energy ministers Sergei I. Shmatko and Massoud Mir-Kazemi, signed a “roadmap” to future economic cooperation in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, according to ITAR-TASS, a Russian news-wire.
Just weeks after Russia supported United Nations sanctions against Iran for developing a rogue nuclear program, and just as President Dmitry Medvedev demanded that Iran explains its nuclear program, the Russian Ministry of Energy stated that “sanctions will not hinder us in our joint cooperation” with Iran.
On Monday, Russian President Medvedev said that Iran is approaching the point where it would have the means to build a nuclear bomb, a statement that seems to demonstrate Russia’s grudging acceptance of American and Israeli intelligence, and which was rebuked by the Iranian government.
The Russians have yet to cancel their sale of the destabilizing S-300 anti-aircraft long-range missiles. While the recent U.N. sanctions prohibit weapons sales to Iran, the Obama Administration granted Russians an exception to sell Iran “defensive weapons,” namely the controversial S-300. Medvedev has not yet cancelled the missile deal, according to a top Russian military official.
The energy road map may be a Russian compensation to Iran, since Russo-Iranian relations have suffered somewhat since the beginning of the U.S.-Russian “reset.”
Evolution of the Russian position on Iran may be providing a window into the works of Russian intelligence. The Russian government is beginning to realize that the American, European, and Israeli assessment of Iranian nuclear ambitions is correct.
At the same time, the recent failures of Russian agents in America and the Russian foreign intelligence SVR’s inability to gather information on Iranian developments, such as the uncovering of the Qom nuclear facility in 2009, may be encouraging the Kremlin to trust Western intelligence more than its counterparts in Tehran.
Nevertheless, Russia will not just abandon an old ally like Iran—especially one that has bought billions of dollars of weapons and nuclear technology, and kept Russian weapons manufacturers afloat.
Iran is a notoriously unreliable business partner, particularly with regard to its oil and gas industries. Russia’s Gazprom is competing with Chinese state-owned companies for access to the massive Pars and Azar gas fields; Iran and Russia’s relationship continues to grow, at least in part, because of their shared perception of America as the adversary.
And Russia, which does not perceive of Iran as a critical strategic threat, like the United States does, may not be ready to sacrifice its economic interests for the common good—at least not yet.