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2. A nuclear Iran will not need cooperation with Russia, and Tehran’s most extreme elements will help Russian jihadists. Thus, Russia should help the West stop this problem before it grows.
3. Hoping for a confrontation between the West and Iran is stupid because the consequences cannot be predicted — including the effect on the world economy and midterm oil prices.
4. Can Moscow be sure that Iran would not give the nuclear material necessary for a dirty bomb (or worse) to Russia’s Muslim extremists?
As mentioned above, Russia decided to stop delivery of S-300 systems to Iran. It is telling that this decision was made public following Vladimir Putin’s Paris meeting with French president Sarkozy, not in a forum that would let the Obama administration take maximum credit for Russia’s policy reversal.
Western Europe: Using the leverage of Europe’s dependence upon Russian gas, Moscow hopes to affect the policies of Western European countries in areas of the world that matter to Moscow — starting with its Near Abroad. Apart for a growing lack of military capability, Western Europeans have little appetite for the serious use of military force. Hence, getting many NATO countries to oppose membership for Ukraine (whose population does not want it) and Georgia (whose population does) was not a hard task when the alternative would have been severely strained relations with Moscow. Moscow’s energy lever will also be apparent as other questions (e.g., trade) are decided in Russian-European negotiations.
Russia and America, for Now
The 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union gave rise to hopes of a democratic, open, free market, pro-Western Russia that would respect the boundaries of the newly independent states of the former USSR. Today, an increasingly closed Russia is driven by thoughts of greater influence in, or absorption of, the Christian parts of its former empire. This puts Moscow at odds with Washington in spite of common interests that include the fight against radical Islam, anti-proliferation initiatives, space cooperation, and nuclear cooperation. The Obama administration’s efforts to improve relations have thus far consisted primarily of disproportionate concessions affecting America’s missile defense program as well as American interests in Eastern Europe and parts of the former USSR. Left unchanged, this policy will likely whet the appetite of the usually shrewd Russian geostrategists to ask for, or take, more.
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