Russia Rebuffs Clinton on Iran Sanctions; Putin Takes Moscow Closer to Beijing

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:

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Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    I am of a generation whose mind is boggled at the idea of China lending money to Russian banks.

    Just as we needed to carry out a process of unlearning to deal with our orientalism, remedial reading is neededto deal with the acceleration of the transfer of power from West to East.

    May I suggest Niall Ferguson's Dillon Lecture to Chatham House as a useful introdcution to the new reality.

    Remember the Khedive and the Caliphate's debts??.

    Blithely in Washington, I’ve heard this said frequently in the last 10 months, the Chinese have nowhere else to go. ‘Of course they have to hold dollars. What are they going to do? Hold euros?
    Hold the currency of an area that’s doing even worse eonomically than that
    United States?’ The answer is actually that the Chinese do have somewhere else to go. They have (a) their own consumers to bring online. They can encourage their own households to be the principle buyers of Chinese manufactures and at the same time they can diversify out of dollardenominated
    reserves into commodities. And that is exactly what China has
    been doing. In the last three months, CIC, one of the Chinese sovereign wealth funds, has closed deals worth 4.25 billion dollars with various resource
    companies around the world. The aim is to acquire copper – you name it actually – any metals and indeed some foodstuffs that are seen as key commodities for China’s import-hungry economy.

    I wonder what they will carve on Alan Greenspans's gravestone?

  2. this fairly guarantees a US invasion of Pakistan, so write off New Dehli

  3. In contrast, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev had seemed more open to further sanctions, though he may have thought them farther off than did Washington.

    I felt the western media were over-interpreting Medvedev's remarks. Because it was what the US wants to hear.

    I doubt if there is really discord in Moscow.

    But Lavrov certainly sets out the position clearly.

  4. America's ability to bully, threaten, and twist arms is lessening.

  5. These anxieties and considerations around energy supplies are likely to drive geopolitics in the 21st century.

    Yes indeed. The push for gas exports to China seems a ploy to do just what you suggest – startle Europe. There is no doubt that an expanded EU will be vitally dependent on Russia for energy, particulary gas, in the future. And China has already lent billions ($25 billion to Rosneft, for example) for East Siberian oil coming online as soon as next year.

    As for Beijing's intentions re: Iran and nukes, I'm not so sure they are that concerned about thwarting nuclear weapons capability. Beijing's assistance with Pakistan's bomb is well known now but denied in the past. Mao wanted to see all nations have a bomb to end "nuclear blackmail" by the great powers.

  6. Although off-topic for this thread, here's an interview with al-Qaeda's top military commander, a man the CIA thought it had just killed–Ilyas Kashmiri. An excerpt:

    "So I and many people all across the world realized that analyzing the situation in any narrow regional political perspective was an incorrect approach. This is a different ball game altogether for which a unified strategy is compulsory. The defeat of American global hegemony is a must if I want the liberation of my homeland Kashmir, and therefore it provided the reasoning for my presence in this war theater."

    It will be very hard for many to accept, but the strategic goal of al-Qaeda is no different from that of the rebels in Star Wars.

  7. Offtopic: since you have been covering the debate over how many more troops Obama will send to Afghanistan (following his initial increase of 20,000 troops), I'm surprised you haven't mentioned his recent decision to deploy 13,000 additional troops.

  8. If I was sitting in Russia I would see the case of Iran-US conflict as

    a) good source of income. Russia can cash in on US-Europe sanctions.

    b) View and outright conflict between US-Iran as potential to revive Russian position. We know that US trapped Soviet Union in Afghanistan and destroyed the Soviet Union as a Super Power. Now if Russia can get US in Iran it would be able to destroy or seriously damage US position.

    Instead of these sanction and conflict game, US needs to restore relation with Iran and at the same time push the human right issues. A Win/Win for US.

  9. .
    "China does not need to import much natural gas …"

    Not today, you're right about that.
    But China is investing in a mega-billion Yuan natural gas pipeline from Xinjiang to the Yangtze River valley. It will not only get Chinese gas to Chinese markets, but will meet up with a pipeline from Kazakhstan (and maybe Turkmenistan) slated for completion in 2012.

    And it's my opinion that the Chinese constructed the port at Gwadar at almost no cost to Pakistan in order to facilitate the flow of Omani and Iranian gas, even in the face of an unlikely future US blockade.

    Readers might enjoy INSS' 2009 Global Strategic Assessment, which contains some related maps I furnished but didn't get credit for: link to

    an avid student of Chinese contingency planning

  10. Anyone interested in official Kremlin policy in the short to medium term on most of the salient FP issues, should read this interview if they wish to avoid idle speculation and erroneous guessing games.

    President of Russia
    Interview with CNN
    September 20, 2009

  11. I could have sworn the foreign Minster said … (the second track does not provide for unilateral sanctions or other formats where the issue will be discussed outside 5+1)

    And then this.
    Iran sanctions bill!!
    The bill, which sailed through by a 414-6 vote, permits US states, local governments and pension funds to end investments in firms that have 20 million dollars or more invested in Iran's petroleum or natural gas operations.
    "This legislation gives a strong 'go signal' to state and local leaders around America to get out of Iran," said Representative Mark Kirk , the measure's lead Republican author.
    The legislation does not directly impose sanctions on Iran, but shields states and local governments from lawsuits if they pull their money out of such businesses.

    So Clinton is in Russia discussing Iran out side of 5+1 format and is asking for unilateral sanctions by Russia on Iran such as above and fronting the international community.
    And don’t forget the reporter (probably a plant) who gets corrected twice.
    From here it looks that the Zionist fully entrenched in American hierarchy are an innumerable obstacle to any normality of relation with Iran, Easy enough. Hard to explain is the number of abnormal relations the horde indulges on. Another don’t ask, don’t tell policy I suppose.

  12. .
    Anon. at 6:28 PM asks for comment on a purported "recent decision to deploy 13,000 additional troops."

    There was no such recent decision, even though this was reported in the Washington Post.
    link to

    When the Administration announced (?in May?) that it was sending an additional 4,000 troops to train the "Afghan National Army," on top of the 17,000 combat troops announced in ?March?, they also said that total troops would reach 68,000 by year end, double the number when President Obama took office (34,000.)

    The Post reporter took that to mean the end of the calendar year, but the Administration meant the end of the fiscal year. So those additional 13,000 support troops/ enablers have been flowing over there, a unit at a time, ever since May. Those deployments have been reported in local papers.

    The Post reporter asked last week about the total number of US military personnel in-country, and was surprised at the 68,000 answer. She was expecting 34K + 21K = 55K. She knew that another 13K would be sent by the end of the year, but she thought they would be sent between Christmas and New Years, apparently.

    Bottom line, this erste blatt news story was really just about how that reporter had lost track of the previously announced numbers.

  13. Oops. Thanks for the clarification on the 13,000 troops increase. I had actually read the story in Agence France-Presse (I should have checked their source!).

    You are correct that (since May?) news agencies have been reporting the figure of 68,000 troops by the years end. But unless people happen to know the initial troops level of 34,000, it does seem resonable that they would assume that Obama has deployed only his clearly stated increase of 21,000 troops, instead of his actual increase of 34,000 troops.

    More to the point, the WP story notes that "On Afghanistan, White House and Pentagon spokesmen differed over exactly what the president has approved. "

    "Obama announced in a March 27 speech that he was approving 21,000 troops, and a White House spokesman said that the president did not approve any other increases before or after. Asked for more details on the troop authorizations, spokesman Tommy Vietor said the Pentagon was better suited to provide such "technical information." "

    "Defense officials, however, acknowledge that the request for 21,000 troops has led to the authorization of more forces. "

    ""Obama authorized the whole thing. The only thing you saw announced in a press release was the 21,000," said another defense official familiar with the troop-approval process. "

    And while you state that "Those deployments have been reported in local papers. " What about major news outlets?

    I've seen them report "68,000 troops by the years end", but never "Obama approves surge of 34,000 troops". I HAVE seen the headline "Obama approves 21,00O more troops". I'm not saying this doesn't add up, but it could be reported MUCH more clearly.

    After all, now that "President Obama ponders a request from U.S. commanders for as many as 80,000 more troops for Afghanistan,"

    link to

    We need to know whether that is the full figure, or does this include an unmentioned, yet additional 30,000 or more of "support" forces.

    It may be erste blatt, but it's only AFTER the WP article came out that I find hundreds of news stories/blogs reporting with the figure of 34,000, instead of 21,000.

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