Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Russia Turning?

According to the NYT:

Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say.
This is a fortunate turn of events. The only question is why?

It is tought to discern much with clarity about Russia these days, as it has returned to a vestige of its autocratic past. Putin has gone a long way to dismantling the nascent democracy in Russia and, in its place, inserting a thuggish regime where serious dissenters are engaged by bullets rather then debate and the ballot box. Russia has taken the place of the old Soviet Union as the premier arms dealer for all rouge regimes. And Russia has been involved in the very lucrative deal to build nuclear reactors in Iran.

Given Russia's own problems with radical Islamists in Chechneya and the growth of Islamist regimes on its borders, it has always appeared that Russia's relationship of conveinance with Islamic countries was near insanity.

So is Russia reassessing its long-term strategic intersts and placing those interests over short term economic gain? Or are Putin and friends upset because Iran because its checks are bouncing? Or are there yet other motivations?

“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves — and that’s not all bad.”

A senior European official said: “We consider this a very important decision by the Russians. It shows that our disagreements with the Russians about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program are tactical. Fundamentally, the Russians don’t want a nuclear Iran.”
. . . .
The Russian Atomic Energy Agency, or Rosatom, is eager to become a major player in the global nuclear energy market. As Security Council action against Iran has gained momentum and Iran’s isolation increases, involvement with the Bushehr project may detract from Rosatom’s reputation.

In a flurry of public comments in the past month, Russian officials acknowledged that Russia was delaying the delivery of fuel to the reactor in the Iranian port city of Bushehr. It blamed the decision on the failure of Iran to pay what it owes on the project, not on concerns about nuclear proliferation.

But last month, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov informed some European officials that Russia had made a political decision not to deliver the fuel, adding that Russia would state publicly that the sole reason was financial, European officials said.

Read the article here. Whatever the true motivation or mix of motivations, this is welcome news. The pressure on Iran just got ratcheted up - and we have just taken a small step back from war with Iran.

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