Moscow has shown yet again that it is determined to protect Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Russia and China have asked Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) director general, to stall U.S.-backed plans to publicize information on Iran’s nuclear program. This information is available in a diplomatic note acquired by the Associated Press.
As the leaked IAEA document suggests, Moscow and Beijing should not provide international cover to Tehran’s burgeoning nuclear program. Even the Soviets knew better than that.
The “reset” policy paradigm between U.S. and Russia continues to struggle. Principal irritants between Washington and Moscow remain intact, making the “reset” a charade. As The Heritage Foundation repeatedly warned, the “reset” program has been a “bet on the wrong horse”—President Dmitry Medvedev, little more than a placeholder for Putin, has deluded Washington with conciliatory rhetoric aimed to build trust in the Kremlin. The now-imminent return of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s president could expose the “reset” for what it is as he toughens Russia’s foreign policy stance, including on Iran. Emphasizing relations with Medvedev was a bad bet.
A diplomatic note from Russia and China to Amano reveals serious disagreements between East and West in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on handling Iran’s nuclear activities. The U.S., Britain, and France demand that Amano share all the information available, including on Iran’s suspected experiments with nuclear weapon components. They suggest that he reveal the details at the upcoming IAEA Board of Governors meeting in November, which includes representatives from 35 member states.
Meanwhile, Russia and China are doing their best to conceal the damning information. Moscow and Beijing issued a joint statement urging Amano to “exercise caution,” warning that making the information public would be “untimely and inappropriate, because that would drive Iranians into the corner, and their willingness to cooperate on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program may disappear.”
Moscow has longstanding trade and diplomatic connections with Iran and thus attempts to pose as the middleman in the six-party nuclear talks that include U.S., China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany (known in the diplomatic lingo as P-5+1, after the Permanent Five members of the UNSC).
However, as we wrote last year, the Kremlin was reluctant to make any compromises with the White House on Iran, even when Russia agreed to support the watered-down UNSC sanctions and cancelled the S-300 anti-aircraft missile sale to the ayatollahs. Today as before, Moscow is trying to fly diplomatic cover for Tehran, which is a Russian arms customer and a geopolitical battering ram to pound the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf.
Moscow’s efforts to protect Iran from international pressure actively undermine weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation efforts, which used to be an area of active cooperation between Russia and the West. Even the USSR refrained from sharing or selling its nuclear “know-how”—with the exception of China in the 1950s—as a part of its nuclear deterrence strategy based on the UNSC P-5 monopoly.
That has changed in the last 20 years. Even though last year Russia supported sanctions against Iran and cancelled the deal to sell the S-300 missile complex to Tehran, today the progress is being reversed, to the satisfaction of the Russian military-industrial complex.
This course of action by Moscow increases the danger of Iran actually acquiring nuclear weapons. This may prompt Western powers and Israel to launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which would destabilize the entire region and send oil prices skyrocketing.
Therefore, the U.S. and its democratic allies should not allow the Kremlin to become a diplomatic godfather for Iran’s dangerous nuclear program. Preventing nuclear proliferation is one of the basic responsibilities of any great state. The USSR’s leaders understood that, and so should the current administration in the Kremlin. If the Obama Administration believes that the “reset” was about cooperation on Iran, now is the time to get frank with our Russian partners, exposing the dangers Iran poses to its neighborhood and the whole world.