20 Years of Leading Analysis
  • What Does Russia Really Want in Iran?

    Posted by: Petr Topychkanov December 19, 2014

    A number of conflicting assessments regarding Russia’s role in the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program have emerged in the last few days. Some experts say that Russia played a significant role, while others believe it was passive. Some claim that Russia is interested in protracting the negotiations, others argue that it actually wants them to be completed, while yet another group asserts that the Kremlin seeks to derail them. Such are the views expressed by Russian, Iranian, and Western analysts.

    The debate on the Russian role in these negotiations sometimes neglects Russia’s established interests:

    • First, it is not in Russia’s interest for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or the capabilities to develop them;
    • Second, Russia is aware of the threats posed by Iran’s possible involvement in the proliferation of nuclear technologies and materials;
    • Third, Russia is categorically opposed to the use of force in solving the Iranian nuclear problem – whether through missile and air strikes, sabotage, cyberattacks, or any other means;
    • Fourth, Russia does not support unilateral or multilateral sanctions against Iran and would like them to be lifted.

    In short, Russia’s interests lie in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, promoting regional stability, and developing multi-faceted cooperation with Iran.

    Various interest groups, including those representing the energy and military industrial sectors, impact Russia’s policy toward Iran. However, past experience suggests that while these groups may influence Moscow’s position on Iran, they do not determine it. Besides, Russia has to consider the interests of other regional players, primarily Israel, with which, as the Russian president put it, Russia is bound by “strong ties of friendship.”

    Did the Ukraine-triggered crisis in Russia’s relations with the West affect the Kremlin’s position on Iran? It certainly did, but not to the extent feared by many. Russia did not shield Iran, nor did it act as a spoiler in the negotiations. This behavior explains Western satisfaction and Iran’s open dissatisfaction with the quality of Russian participation in the negotiations.

    Russia has not abandoned its interests regarding Iran as a result of the current geopolitical crisis. But the crisis has become one of the two reasons for the development of both bilateral and multilateral cooperation initiatives with the Islamic republic.

    The most hotly debated development in the bilateral relationship was the expansion of cooperation on the peaceful use of atomic energy. On November 11, Russia and Iran signed the Protocol to the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement which includes cooperation in the construction of eight WWER-reactor nuclear power plants, as well as a contract to build the second stage of the Bushehr nuclear power plant with between two and four new reactors. Russia is also expanding its cooperation with Iran in other areas including trade, transportation, space exploration, and military technology.

    The second reason for developing Russian-Iranian cooperation is the impending conclusion of the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear problem. Evidently, Moscow understands that the sanctions against Iran may be lifted in the foreseeable future. Russia is thus attempting to maximally strengthen its position in the Iranian market before new actors appear on the scene.

    The current situation surrounding Iran resembles the situation around India several years ago. When, with help of the George W. Bush administration, India started to emerge from partial international isolation brought on by its 1998 nuclear weapon tests, Russia intensified its already active contacts with India. As a result, Russian companies were able to sign a number of contracts with India shortly after its 2008 agreement with the IAEA.

    Russian participation in the nuclear talks has demonstrated that despite the depth of the Ukrainian crisis and all the existing conflicts between Russia and the West, there are no reasons to consider Russia a purely destructive force that is bent on harming the West. The current issues in global politics and economics have forced Russia to take a more pragmatic position, albeit concealed under the cloak of propaganda rhetoric. This position seeks to prevent a further escalation of disagreements into an even sharper confrontation with the West. As part of this strategy, Russia strives to develop large-scale cooperation with other global and regional powers, including Iran.

  • The Feudalization of Ukraine?

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Thursday, December 18, 2014

    Ukraine may be heading not towards federalization or decentralization, but feudalization. To avoid this, the focus should not only be on central, macro-level reforms but also on building civil society to make those larger reforms sustainable.

  • Regime Change Divides East and West

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    In the new ideological cleavage that has opened up between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Western countries, one idea divides them like no other: the meaning of regime change.

  • Russia’s Pivot to Asia: Is It Good for Russia and Is It Successful?

    Posted by: Akio Kawato, Arkady Dubnov, Alexander Gabuev, Petr Topychkanov, Pavel Shlykov Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Many are talking about Russia’s pivot eastward, but is it working? Eurasia Outlook posed the question to some leading experts in the field in order to gather some thoughts about the policy’s effectiveness.

  • The End of Consensus: What does Europe Want from Russia?

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, December 15, 2014

    Many in Russia believe that the EU sanctions appeared as a result of the Ukrainian conflict and pressure from Washington. But the reasons for the current deterioration in Russia’s relations with Europe are far more profound.

  • Germany and Russia: We Cannot Make a Fatal Mistake

    Posted by: Timofei Bordachev Friday, December 12, 2014 4

    History teaches us that conflict is not a natural condition of Russian-German relations. There is a need for greater introspection and moderation in the use of force, both military and economic.

  • Lessons from Vienna

    Posted by: Nikolay Kozhanov Friday, December 12, 2014

    The experience gained in Vienna may be useful in future talks. In order to make the further negotiations effective, both Obama and Rouhani need to find a way to achieve a consensus of support for their actions within their own political establishments.

  • The Grozny Attack—What’s Next?

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Thursday, December 11, 2014

    The terrorist attack that shook Grozny during the night of December 4 has put in question the authorities’ ability to control the situation in the North Caucasus, even in the seemingly stable Chechen Republic.

  • Vladimir Putin’s Annual Address and Its Message

    Posted by: Lina Khatib, Shi Han, Ulrich Speck, Wang Tao Wednesday, December 10, 2014 1

    Several Carnegie experts from different offices discuss the significance of Putin’s address to the future of Russia and its role in the international community.

  • What Do You Expect from Vladimir Putin’s Visit to India?

    Posted by: Vinay Shukla, Tatiana Shaumyan, Arun Mohanty, Petr Topychkanov Tuesday, December 09, 2014

    What do you expect from Vladimir Putin’s visit to India? Eurasia Outlook posed the question to some leading experts in the field in order to gather some predictions about the meeting’s significance to Russia-India relations moving forward.



Eurasia Outlook provides insight into this critical but difficult-to-understand region with analysis from Carnegie’s experts in Moscow, Washington, and Almaty and other leading voices.

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