McClatchy reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met a rebuff in Moscow on Tuesday from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the issue of further United Nations sanctions on Iran. Lavrov said of Iran, “We are convinced that threats, sanctions, or threats to use pressure are counterproductive in the present situation.” This language closely echoes that of China. It also reflects the position of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had said in September that “any use of force, delivering any kind of strike, won’t help, won’t solve the problem. On the contrary, it will hurt the entire region. As for sanctions, they won’t bring the desired effect.” In contrast, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev had seemed more open to further sanctions, though he may have thought them farther off than did Washington. Lavrov’s remarks are further proof, if any were needed, that Putin is still calling the shots in the Russian Federation.
Russia Today has video of the Clinton/Lavrov press conference:
The USG Open Source Center translated Lavrov’s remarks on Iran from Vesti TV:
‘ Lavrov said the Russian and US positions on the Iranian nuclear issue coincide, but he believed imposing sanctions would be counterproductive at this stage.
He said: “We are not asking anything of each other regarding Iran, because it would be strange to ask for something on an issue where our positions coincide. We want to resolve all issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program, so that that country can make full use of its rights as a non-nuclear member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and of all opportunities arising from this connected with the use of peaceful nuclear energy, but at the same time ensuring that the non-proliferation regime is in no way violated.
“And this is absolutely firm ground on which Russia and the USA, along with our European partners and the People’s Republic of China, are promoting their proposals for talks with Iran regarding the settlement of all the existing issues.”
Lavrov went on to say that Russia was “fully committed to the two-track approach” to the settlement of Iran’s nuclear issue, stressing that the second track [i.e. economic sanctions] only has “an auxiliary function, that of influencing Iran with a view to achieving success on track one.”
“Today we have, albeit not 100-per-cent, still quite good chances of achieving progress on the first track,” he said.
Referring to agreements reached at the 5+1 meeting [with Iran] on 1 October in Geneva, Lavrov said: “We have agreed today that all those agreements should be implemented in full. We expect that at the specific contacts planned for this month, practical work to implement those agreements will begin in all three areas (resuming talks on Iran’s nuclear program, inspections of the Qom uranium enrichment plant, and supply of low-enriched uranium to the Tehran research reactor).
“So we base our position on this, and also on the fact that at this stage all efforts should be employed to maintain the negotiating process which began on the first track. We are convinced that threats, sanctions, or threats to use pressure are counterproductive in the present situation.” ‘
Meanwhile, PM Putin was in Beijing doing economic deals that included Chinese loans to Russian banks and Russian help in building a petroleum refinery near the Chinese capital, according to FT. I am of a generation whose mind is boggled at the idea of China lending money to Russian banks. Putin had hoped to nail down a Chinese agreement to import natural gas from Russia, but made little progress beyond a meaningless memorandum of agreement. China does not need to import much natural gas, in contrast to petroleum (it imports nearly 4 mn. barrels per day of oil), and still has not gotten the terms from Russia it is seeking. Putin’s initial approach to China with regard to natural gas exports created fears in Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, that their supply might be reduced in favor of Beijing. These anxieties and considerations around energy supplies are likely to drive geopolitics in the 21st century.
In any case, Russia’s tightening of ties with China is of a piece with its Iran policy, which mirrors that of Beijing, and the congruence is unlikely to be accidental. The Russian-Chinese cooperation is given institutional form by the Shanghai Cooperation Council and seems pretty explicitly aimed at excluding the US from hegemony in Central Asia. Keeping Iran from being crushed by US-led sanctions would be consistent with that approach. Of course, neither Russia nor China wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and evidence that it was doing so might change their minds on sanctions. After years of running interference for North Korea, China has this year proved more willing to back strict sanctions against Pongyang after N. Korea tried its patience once too often on the nuclear issue.
Russia Today has video on Putin’s deal-making in China:
End/ (Not Continued)