WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
According to Tuesay's, 20th of March, New York Times, in a byline from Paris, Russian officials have given an ultimatum (perhaps better described as a 'demarche'?), to their Persian counterparts, stating that Russian nuclear fuel needed for Teheran's nuclear programme, most especially its nuclear power plant at Bushehr, will be withheld, and all Russian experts withdrawn, in absence of Persia's complying with the United Nation's Security Council's resolutions on its nuclear programme (see: www.nytimes.com). The story, which has been subsequently denied by Russian officials in Moskva, certainly indicates that the ongoing Russo-Persian tensions over whether or not, Teheran has been paying its bills for Russian assistance with the project at Bushehr, has not been without foundation (for such stories in the past two months, see: www.ft.com & www.lemonde.fr., for the Russian denial, see: www.enrian.ru). The Persian reaction to the story, notwithstanding the official Russian denial only served to give greater credit to it. In an commentary on Official Persian State Television, Russia was denounced as "not a reliable partner in the field of nuclear co-operation" due to Moskva's "double standard stances by Russian officials regarding the Iran's [Persia's] nuclear issue" (see: www.dailystar.com.lb). Persian outrage can also be tied to the fact that Russia, in conjunction with other member of the Security Council, are pushing forward with more sanctions to be placed on the regime in Teheran (see: www.ft.com).
What is the rationale for Moskva's action? Especially since commentator's such as Ray Takeyh, have argued that Russia would never break with Persia over the nuclear issue (see his: "Time for Detente with Iran", in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007). With tensions on the upswing between the United States and Russia over a number of different issues: Kosovo, Ballistic Missile Defence, and to a lesser extent Georgia, there is per se no rhyme or reason for Putin, et. al., to necessarily agree to American demands for cutting Russia's nuclear relationship with Teheran. Much less do so, in so public a fashion. One possible explanation is that contrary to much analysis, in both the American and West European press, Russia is not in fact, greatly interested in cultivating relations with those powers in the Near East, who are discontented with American hegemony in the Near East, id est, Persia and Syria. And, that as per the analysis of scholars such as Dmitri Trenin, that Russia's prime motivation for its Near Eastern policy, is much more focused upon commercial goals. And, with the regime in Teheran suffering from the existing sanctions, formal as well as informal ones, Moskva might just see, that the present dispute over alleged Persian late payments, as an excuse to back away from a business client, and or customer, whose shady history and current problems, seem to indicate that 'the game is not worth the candle'. So much for those who posit that Russia is gearing up for a rematch of the cold war with the United States, either in the Near East or elsewhere (see my last posting on this issue). As for future Russian policy towards the Persian regime, it would appear that this is something needing a soupcon of good olde fashion 'watching and waiting'.