Russia is troubled by the growing threat of a military strike on Iran, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday, adding that fear of foreign intervention pushes other “nuclear threshold” states to acquire nuclear weapons, rather than dissuading them.
“Russia is alarmed by the growing threat of a military strike” against Iran, Putin said in a lengthy campaign article focusing on Russia’s foreign policy, published in the daily Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper ahead of presidential elections on March 4, which he is widely expected to win.
“If this happens, the consequences will be truly catastrophic, their real scope impossible to imagine,” Putin wrote.
Such a military strike is increasingly reported as being an option under consideration by Israeli and US military planners as Iran moves ahead with its uranium enrichment program. Western countries and Israel say Iran is trying to build atomic weapons. Tehran rejects that accusation and says its nuclear activities are solely for civilian purposes.
“We propose to recognize Iran’s right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium” in exchange for placing the country’s nuclear activities under the tight control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international nuclear safety watchdog, Putin said.
If this is achieved, then all sanctions against Iran, including unilaterally imposed by individual countries, need to be lifted, Putin said in the 6,000-word article outlining his foreign policy vision ahead of the elections next Sunday.
In the article, Putin lashed out at the West for excessive pressure on sovereign countries by means of sanctions and military interventions, clearly referring to the NATO-led military operations in Iraq and Libya.
“There is a feeling that increasingly often cases of crude and even violent interventions from outside the internal affairs of other countries may stimulate certain authoritarian regimes, and not just them, to acquire nuclear weapons,” Putin said. “Say, ‘if I have an atomic bomb in my pocket, no one will touch me because the cost of it would be too high’. And if someone has no such a bomb, he can expect some kind of ‘humanitarian’ intervention.”
Thus, the number of the so-called “nuclear threshold” states, or countries that can quickly develop military nuclear technologies, is growing rather than shrinking, Putin argued, in what increases risks of nuclear proliferation.
Speaking of North Korea, which has already conducted two tests of its own nuclear bombs, Putin said that Russia calls for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which should be achieved only through diplomatic efforts.
“But not all our partners share this approach… Any attempts to test the hardness of the new North Korean leader are not acceptable as they would essentially provoke counter-measures,” Putin said, referring to the 28-year-old Kim Jong-un who succeeded his deceased father Kim Jong-il at the helm of the Communist regime late last year.