While we debate the possible positives of Russian moves to join the U.S. and EU-3 in efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons or other efforts to develop nuclear technology outside the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has acknowledged that Russian-U.S. relations are diverging. The evidence is more clear than the words of Foreign Minister Lavrov.
“We can come to the conclusion that in the whole complex of our (foreign) relations the weight of existing military and strategic links between Russia and the United States … will be constantly declining,” Lavrov said in his end-of-the-year web address.
Lavrov calls for greater equality of relations between the U.S. and Russia stressing “partnership and mutual respect.”
Issues between the U.S. and Russia are many – from the Putin government’s restrictions on personal or business liberties, to the Russia’s attempts to maintain influence in former Soviet republics, to the construction of the Buesher nuclear power plant in Iran.
On Friday, Russian sources announced a $1 billion deal which included 30 Tor-M1 surface-to-air missiles being delivered to Iran over the next two years. The deal was confirmed today by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
“A contract for the delivery of air defense Tor missiles to Iran has indeed been signed,” Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
While the U.S. has remained generally optimistic with regard to Russian attitude, and Colonel General Yuri Baluyevsky has stated that Russia is no longer oriented towards large scale nuclear or conventional warfare with the West – the Russians remain aligned toward non-U.S. allies, such as Iran, and concerned that former Soviet states such as the Ukraine are moving toward NATO or other Western alliances. Most tellingly, the Russians have supported Iran’s nuclear development efforts while pointing at Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal as a sign of U.S. hypocrisy.
“The U.S. has made demands that a number of countries’ nuclear programs should be completely transparent,” he [Colonel General Yuri Baluyevsky] said. “On the other hand, the U.S. turns a blind eye to the fact that Israel has for a long time … had a significant nuclear arsenal.”
Should the Russians fully support efforts to prevent Iran’s nuclear development from reaching weapons or weapons manufacturing capability, much tension between the former foes will be allieviated. If Russia were to take that stand, other purely defensive weapons sales are far less likely to draw criticism from the U.S.