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Co-operation on regional and global issues

22 - Relations with Russia on Iran and proliferation

Grade: B
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 13/20
Scorecard 2010/11: A- (16/20)

Russia cooperated with the West in the renewed diplomatic push that took place in 2012 but opposed EU sanctions.

The EU and the US see blocking Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capacity as one of their primary foreign-policy goals. As a member of the UNSC and an Iranian partner in military transfers and the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant, Russia has the power to obstruct or facilitate Western objectives. Russia does not want a nuclear-armed Iran but neither does it fully share the West’s analysis of the situation. In particular, Russia strongly disagrees with the EU policy of sanctions, which it thinks is at least partially counter-productive. However, Russia still has more common ground with the EU than it does with the US.

In 2012, as the impact of EU and US sanctions brought Tehran back to the negotiating table, Europeans were once again led by the EU3 (France, Germany, and the UK) in attempts to get Russian support on Iran. But although three meetings of the E3+3 group were held, including one in Moscow, a breakthrough proved elusive. Russia cooperated in the meetings, but continued to oppose sanctions and denounced the EU oil blockade. Russia also said Iran was neither seeking nuclear weapons nor would attack other states with them, and implied that the threat of force against Iran prevented the crisis from being resolved. Despite participating in the E3+3, Moscow also continued its conventional arms sales to Iran.

Thus, although the EU and Russia cooperated in the renewed diplomatic push that took place in 2012, differences in their approaches remained. Europeans were frustrated by Russia’s reluctance to play a stronger role as a broker. Russia, on the other hand, continues to see Western policy as making conflict more rather than less likely. Strains developed towards the end of 2012 when the EU tightened its sanctions towards Iran by imposing measures targeting the banking, trade, and energy sectors, which Russia opposes. Russian President Vladimir Putin also reiterated his support this year for Iran’s right to nuclear energy and warned that Israel would “regret” an attack on Iran.