SECRETARY CLINTON IN MOSKVA: A COMMENT
"My impression is that the reset has indeed become a reality. The most important thing now is that we do not stop moving forward...to halt the degradation of relations that was in place before the Obama administration came to power...".
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, 19 March 2010, quoted in www.rian.ru.
"Let me echo Minister Lavrov’s comments. As President Medvedev said at the very beginning of our meeting, the reset has been a success. And now we have to build on the relationships that we have developed, starting between our two presidents, and going throughout our governments....
We also discussed a range of other issues from Iran to Afghanistan and so much more as our part of our ongoing consultation. And we look forward to welcoming President Medvedev back to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit in a few weeks.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Mark Landler from The New York Times. Also a question for both of you. It has been seven months since the disclosure of the secret Iranian nuclear facility at Qom, three months since the Iranian government rejected the offer of enrichment for the Tehran research reactor, and one month since the government of Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium up to 20 percent. And yet, after (inaudible) an international solidarity on how to confront Iran are continuing and taking by all accounts longer than anyone had hoped, there have been some comments recently from diplomats that we might not see a UN resolution until June.
My question is simply whether you worry that the clock is in some sense running out? And what you would hope to do to speed up this process?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we have pursued the diplomatic track and thought it was correct to do so. We are now, however, at the stage where we are asking for action and are working very hard in the Security Council to attain a resolution expressing the international community’s disapproval of Iranian actions and pulling together the world in a regime of smart sanctions, as President Medvedev has referred to them, that will try to change the behavior of the Iranian leadership. And we believe we are making progress because many countries are seeing what you have briefly summarized along with the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we expect to reach consensus around an appropriate response".
American Secretary of State, Clinton in Moskva, quoted in, "Remarks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,www.rian.ru
The trip by the American Secretary of State, to Moscow appears on the surface at any rate to have gone well indeed. Or at the very least as well as can be expected under the circumstances. There were announcements by the Quartet relating to the Arab-Israeli dispute (nice if meaningless), to possibly finalizing this coming Spring the nuclear reduction talks between the two powers (nice and possibly quite important), to possibly do away with that idiotic Cold War relic, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, and, finally as well as most importantly signs that Russia might, just might be willing to move closer to actually imposing some type of additional sanctions on Persia. So in short, there has indeed been a
substantial 're-set' in Russo-American relations since the end of the Bush regime's time in power. The question is how far along will this take us? Certainly as far as atmospherics go, there has been a change for the good. With much of the poison, and, automatic nay saying of the prior years gone, hopefully for good. And, the news concerning the possible consummation of a further round of nuclear reduction talks ('START') is also to be welcomed. Concerning the perhaps most important issue between the two powers, that of increased sanctions on Persia, the jury, or at least this juror is still out. Reading between the lines of Lavrov's remarks, it would appear that there has already been a provisionally made 'da', in favor of sanctions if they do come up for a vote in the United Nations Security Council. Whether or not, Mosvka will impose sanctions in conjunction with the Americans and the other Western powers, outside of the framework of the Security Council is at this point impossible to say for sure. If I had to give a surmise, my own answer would be that it is likely to be 'nyet'. With those elements in the decision-making hierarchy in Moskva who are less inclined to favor sanctions, tout court, using a Chinese veto in the Security Council (if it indeed comes to that) as a rationale to stand aloof and do nothing. As it is, the type of sanctions that Moskva favors is of the type which will hardly seriously injure the regime of Mullahs, something which Lavrov was quite open about:
"As President Medvedev put it on numerous occasions, sanctions are never beneficial, but there are some instances where they are impossible to avoid, and the Iranian case might be one of such instance. And as President Medvedev also mentioned on a number of occasions and he reaffirmed that today that sanctions must be smart. They must not be aggressive. They must not paralyze the life of Iranian state. They must not degrade the humanitarian situation and the country. They must not be targeted against the population but rather against those people that are in charge of the decision making process and that identified already in position on the international arena."
Not by any means the optimum response, especially since the type of sanctions mentioned above, are extremely unlikely to penalize the regime in Persia in such a fashion as to make its rulers give-up the idea of pursuing its nuclear programme seriously. However, faute de mieux, the Americans will no doubt take half a loaf, rather than none at all. Even if it is not going to materially change things on the ground in Persia...