2 July 2012, 21:03

Russian position on Iranian nuclear issue

Russian position on Iranian nuclear issue
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Interview with Andrey Baklitsky, project director with the PIR Center. PIR Center stands for the Russian Center for Policy Studies.

Mr. Baklitsky, it is always very nice having you as our guest speaker here. What do we need to expect of the coming round of talks on the Iranian nuclear program this time in Moscow?

It could probably be a very interesting one as we already seen the round of talks passed, one in Bagdad and another one in Istanbul. The third one would probably be of a big importance because if no break-through happens, if there are going to be pure talks again, then it might as well be the last one because as the United States has for a number of times stated, they are not interested in talks, and as it seems there is a possibility of such an outcome because any common ground was found before. And this is probably the reason why foreign minister of Russia Lavrov went to Teheran so suddenly because there should be something at least presented, something that shows that there are negotiations, that parties are into talking and not just buying time. So, that’s the one side of the coin that the west can abandon the talks. The pressure on Iran is getting stronger and stronger every day as Chinese companies are under pressure from the west and the leading Chinese oil companies said that they are not planning to increase oil supplies from Iran and might as well even lower them because the acts in the United States are now punishing companies, which still trade Iranian oil. So, as you can imagine, Iran, if it doesn’t feel that there is anything good coming from the talks, might just withdraw from them and try on to keep talking with the countries, that are their allies - with India for example, or as of lately with China maybe, but not wasting its time with the countries, which just increase pressure. So, there must be something, or else there can be the end of the talks.

Do I get it right that all parties are still working towards some kind of a compromise?

Well, they should because the positions as they were in the beginning, they are almost mutually exclusive because what the west is asking, what the security council demands and had demanded before is that Iran halt all the enrichment. And Iran is not willing to do that, and it says that it is even against the international law, it’s against the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and that is their firm position. The common wisdom will just bring us to the notion that they should stop somewhere in-between, not completely halting the enrichment but staying at the level, which will be acceptable and more or less safe, and there were a lot of talks about it, there were talks that the Iranians are to stop the 13% enrichment, that the United States would accept the 3% enrichment and for IAEA safeguards, that would be all steady and good, but as we’ve seen, it didn’t happen. And again in most times of compromise reaching we saw no signs of any breakthroughs the head of IAEA promised after his visit to Teheran. So, it really seems that there should be something done about it, as I said before.

But do you have any specific details on perhaps new proposals that the parties are prepared to bring to the table when they are meeting in Moscow or is it still very vague?

As I said before, the basic proposals and the basic positions are out there as they were from the beginning, but also there are some interesting notions and interesting things happening recently. For example a couple of days ago the Fars news agency, which is semi-official news agency of Iran, stated in an interview with Iranian admiral that Iran is thinking of designing and building its own nuclear submarines. And it went almost unnoticed but I would like to remind that in order to build a nuclear submarine and operate a nuclear submarine you have to have Uranium enriched, you have to have highly enriched Uranium because the power of machines of the nuclear submarines use highly enriched Uranium, which would mean that Iran would have sort of peaceful power for producing highly enriched Uranium and before people were just joking that Iran just might use it as an excuse to build for example an aircraft carrier, the nuclear power of machines of aircraft needs to have highly enriched Uranium, but now it comes from jokes to reality. So, as Iran started with 3%, then they said they needed 5% and then they said they needed 9.75% and here we can see a shade of the idea which might give some sort of legitimization to Iran’s further enrichment of Uranium. And of course I don’t really believe that Iran is that naïve to believe that international community will go with that. So, it might be as well another sort of bargaining chip, so Iran would say we would like to enrich till, say, 15% but we can just withdraw from that idea and that would be our bargaining, so you can bring us something in. I am not quite sure about that but that as well might be because like if you held the cards on the table and it’s not working, you can introduce a new card and try to start again from the beginning from a better position. So, it might be what Iran will be trying to do.

But those cards seem to be quite irritating for the international community. Though just given all those changes, all those small new details, what is the Russian position on the issue?

Russian position on the issue is quite as it was before and it means that we should talk while we can talk, and the military position, the use of force is always their first option and even worse when you intrude in some countries’ national territory and impose some decisions especially when they are out of international law and you don’t have the security council permission for that. So, Russia is struggling at the moment to make the round talks to be held in Moscow at least not to be the last one and to get something and it is even more important because Russia was claiming itself to have a decisive part to bring the parties together, to organize everything and to continue talks and if held in Moscow, it would be like a slap in the face of Russian foreign policy, so it’s even more important for Russia at the moment. And as I mentioned previously Lavrov’s visit to Teheran supports this position. Russia has strong ties with Iran from economic ties and I am not sure if there is also widely announced but a couple of days ago the U.S. Senate was talking about imposing sanctions on Rosoboronexport, the Russian main weapon exporting company, who also does a lot of other exports for operating with Teheran on peaceful space exploration, because the United States claims that Iran might use this technologies in order to build ballistic missiles. So, when it comes to relations between Russia and China, it is the United States that always under defenses and they always would feel that Russia and Iran are planning to do something bad. So, it naturally moves Russia some sort of leading to Iran because it feels sort of hostility from the United States in this region and especially with Iranians and it was for quite a while. So, Russia and Iran are not really getting anywhere really far from each other because they are neighbors, they have common interests, they have some economic relations and so on, and placed together with the notion that national sovereignty would be the highest value, which is the notion that Russian foreign policy is almost built on, it comes to the fact that Russia would be supporting these talks and will do everything for them to continue and to reach some positive outcome.

Andrey, thank you so much.

And just to remind you, our guest speaker was Andrey Baklitsky, project director with the PIR Center, the Russian Center for Policy Studies.

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