Document Sample
                  POLICY OPTIONS
                                       By Victor Mizin*

Russian involvement in Iran's nuclear program has long been one of the most controversial
aspects of Moscow's Middle East policy. This article evaluates the nature of this cooperation,
especially in regard to its effect on U.S.-Russian relations and options for having an effective
non-proliferation strategy on this front.

On October 21, 2003, as part of a deal             changing approaches to key foreign policy
brokered by Britain, France, and Germany,          issues, such as traditional arms control and
Iran finally yielded to intense international      nonproliferation.       The       immediate
pressure and agreed to sign the Additional         consequences will also influence the
Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty           Middle Eastern political landscape and in
(NPT), which will allow the International          particular Iran. There remains a major
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) short-                 unanswered question of what will happen
notice access to its nuclear facilities.           with the two other members of the "axis of
Tehran also consented to provide an                evil?" Are Iran and North Korea now "off
account of all its nuclear-related activities      the hook" due to the embarrassing turmoil
and to suspend its highly controversial            in Iraq, which revealed the hazards of
uranium enrichment program.                        regime change? Will the nuclear programs
   However, it remains to be seen whether          of these states continue and will there be
this accord, finally signed after intense          major international consequences for them?
diplomatic pressure last December, will            And how will these issues affect Russia,
actually result in Iran foregoing its drive        whose nuclear assets and expertise might
for a nuclear fuel cycle program. To               be available to such countries?
prevent the appearance of another nuclear             At the same time, U.S.-Russian bilateral
weapon state, it is critically important that      relations have progressed remarkably well
the international community seal the               in the wake of September 11. While
external channels that provide nuclear             Moscow has been written off as a
technologies     which      enhance    Iran's      substantial military threat to the United
capability to acquire nuclear weapons. This        States, the concerns about the potential
requires effective U.S. policies toward            spillover of critical WMD technologies
Tehran's most active suppliers. In dealing         from Russia are still bedeviling the minds
with the most prominent of these, Russia,          of Western strategic planners and
the dialogue over this issue has so far been       nonproliferation experts. These American
almost a total fiasco for American                 anxieties are intensified by the tumultuous
nonproliferation strategy.                         and still unstable character of bilateral
   The dramatic outcome of the 2003 Gulf           U.S.-Russian relations that continue to be
War, despite the ongoing pandemonium of            challenged by Moscow's periodic efforts to
the post-war restoration period, has been          demonstrate its independence and global
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                      71
                                          Victor Mizin

clout, as the developments around the Iraqi           In this pattern, Iran is emerging as the
operation demonstrated. Domestically, the          exemplar for Russia's global positioning in
much-hyped Moscow's "campaign against              the 21st century as well as in the U.S.-
unruly oligarchs" on a par with the general        Russian bilateral dialogue. This is
Soviet-style "stabilization" alignment of          especially true regarding the nuclear issue
the Russian society has led many Western           there, an area where Moscow has
observers to question the democratic nature        historically tried to appear as the leading
and core values of the emerging regime.(1)         protagonist,(2) though it has often bent
    Though generally inclined to promoting         existing international norms.(3)
good relations with the West--which is
vital for its economic well-being and              HARD               CHOICES                 FOR
development--Russia still has yet to shirk         WASHINGTON
off its Soviet-era policy of external arms            Of course, Moscow must take into
and technology transfers and aid to rogue          account possible U.S. counter-moves on
states and countries of proliferation              the Iranian and other issues. There are
concern. This policy continues despite the         several different options for U.S. policies
fact that these traditional clients are            regarding the Iranian nuclear question:
declared enemies of the United States, a              --Desperate for a practical solution, the
purported strategic partner.                       United States might ultimately turn to the
    Russia's inability to secure larger            idea of a limited Osirak-type strike or
investments from the West is influenced by         larger-scale military operation to knock out
the country's internal problems--rampant           the major Iranian nuclear facilities.
corruption, bureaucratic mismanagement,               This seems to be, at least for the time
and         crumbling        socio-economic        being, an improbable scenario. It is obvious
infrastructure--which lie behind the facade        that such an operation would produce great
of steady growth. The economic shortfall           opposition in Europe and the Middle East,
here then provides an additional incentive         as well as unforeseeable consequences in
for Russians to argue that they need to sell       terms of Iran's response. Iran has also
sophisticated weaponry and dual-use items          scattered its facilities in an attempt to avoid
to states like China, India, Syria, and Iran       such a development. Given the deep
as legitimate trade operations.        There       involvement in Iraq, the United States also
should be no problem in doing this, Russia         lacks the resources to take such an extreme
claims, as it pledges strict observance of         action. Moreover, the immediate threat
nonproliferation and export control treaties.      does not seem so great as to foster such a
In any case, these weapons systems and             desperate response.
technology find few eager or legal                    --Another option would be to continue
customers in the West or Western-aligned           the current sanctions against the regime
countries.                                         while     helping       Iranian      indigenous
    The rationale for these connections is         opposition forces. This is an easy strategy
not solely economic. Moscow is promoting           and might yield long-run benefits but
its own network of alliances, ostensibly to        would not produce an immediate dramatic
offset current U.S. unilateralism and              change       regarding        Iran's     nuclear
strengthen its position as the leading global      capacity.(4) There could also be efforts to
player. Indeed, Russia has regained much           increase the isolation of Tehran's rulers
ground, even if it still falls short of the        through economic and political sanctions
international role it enjoyed during the           on an international level. Considering
existence of the USSR.                             previous experience--for instance, Cuba
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                 The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

and Iraq--such efforts need to be all-            support for peaceful use of nuclear energy?
encompassing to be meaningful. They               Such efforts could instead augment nuclear
would have to affect the interaction              expertise potentially aiding research on
between Iran and countries like Russia,           nuclear weapons. The challenge is in
North Korea, Pakistan and China. This             reconciling the legitimate right of any
regime's attrition might be impossible, even      Third World country's access to nuclear
for the current American administration.(5)       energy for ‘peaceful purposes,' the
    --Finally, there is the more conventional     ideological cornerstone of the NPT, with
diplomatic      track     of   rallying   the     the recognition of the danger that such
international community through channels          transfers could create the material and
of multilateral diplomacy, the International      intellectual prerequisites for potential
Atomic Energy Agency, and perhaps the             proliferators determined to produce an
United Nations. While many arms control           indigenous nuclear weapon capability. The
experts and academics hope that the               current, even enhanced, outreach of NPT
difficulties the U.S. is experiencing in Iraq     inspections prove to be incapable of
will push Washington to better coordinate         exposing such furtive programs.
its future arms control efforts, this route           The nonproliferation regimes in their
might also let Tehran maneuver in a way           present forms are an important pillar of the
that allows it to continue its nuclear            international legal system of arms control
weapons development at no political or            and a valuable way to track the spillover of
economic cost.                                    critical technologies. But they have also
                                                  failed to block the transgressions of rogue
WHITHER                    TRADITIONAL            states such as Saddam`s Iraq, North Korea
NONPROLIFERATION?                                 or Iran.
    As many experts concur, the current               Implied, however, is the question of
international arrangements demonstrate            whether those legal regimes are in truth
their glaring inefficacy to halt attempts of      binding only for respectable, law-abiding
the most dangerous, destabilizing and             members of the world community,
proliferation-prone regimes to obtain             meaning that they serve as cover for
nuclear technologies, assets and know-            unrestrained proliferators from the Third
how. The major drawback of the Non-               World who use the enforcement effort as a
Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a product of the      pretext to extort more aid and concessions
Cold War era, is that it basically permits        from donors. If so, they are irrelevant or
any state to accomplish its nuclear weapons       even harmful to nonproliferation efforts.
program short of finally assembling a                 The presumption of innocence given by
nuclear explosive device itself. The NPT          NPT membership to the potential seekers
does not observe any distinction between          of nuclear weapons status, in the opinion of
well-behaved members of the international         the leading Russian security experts,
community such as say Denmark and                 should not lead to the scrapping of this
aggressive or failed quasi-states like war-       important document. Rather, it should be
ridden Liberia, totalitarian North Korea or       drastically adapted to the changed realities
Saddam-era Iraq.(6) Moreover, these are           of the post-September 11 era, where
the type of regimes that frequently               meaningless diplomatic formalities would
dominate various UN-run agendas.                  make way for effective nonproliferation
    The basic question is do dangerous            efforts.(7)
states merit nuclear technology handouts,
as stipulated in the NPT's Article IV
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                   73
                                          Victor Mizin

THE                               RUSSIAN              There are several key reasons for this
NONPROLIFERATION GAMBLE                            approach. First, Russia, despite the
    Unfortunately, for the time being the          statements of its experts and politicians,
United States and Russia differ on which           has never been seriously concerned with
countries qualify as rogue states that must        the military threat emanating from WMD
be contained or confronted. Like North             development in the Third World, aside
Korea or China, Russia--the soothing or            from China. Therefore, politically correct
indignant pronouncements of its leaders            declarations from Moscow's dignitaries
notwithstanding--according       to    many        should be seen more as a tribute to the
experts and officials in the area, remains         international consensus on promoting
the world's leading source of WMD-related          nonproliferation       regimes      than      an
items and expertise proliferation.(8)              expression of actual strategic awareness or
    Despite assertions that the two states         sincere concern.
share a common basic approach toward                   The Russian military, though wary of
nonproliferation issues, the United States         any nascent nuclear/missile potential in
and Russia basically stick to opposite             contiguous countries, has realized that
views on all major entanglements in the            these build-ups are oriented against
current nonproliferation debates.(9)               regional rivals and the U.S. military
    With that in mind, the manner in which         presence. This is partly explained by the
this Iranian nuclear conundrum unfolds             fact that, similar to other client states of the
will shape the future of nonproliferation.         former USSR--like North Korea, Libya,
So far, Russian-Iranian connections,               Syria and Iraq--Tehran has been
especially in the area of nuclear and missile      pragmatically regarded in Moscow as an
arms sales, continue to be a major irritant        important regional counterpart, if not
in U.S.-Russian relations, specifically with       potential ally, and a vast market for
regard to bilateral deliberations over             Russian military-related technologies.(14)
nonproliferation issues. The current status            Especially due to the worldwide decline
of this dialogue at any given moment can           in demand on the world armaments'
be viewed as a good indicator of the               markets and the ongoing decline of the
situation in U.S.-Russian affairs.(10)             Russian       military-industrial     complex,
    While recognizing that Iran is an              Moscow feels compelled to develop
important geopolitical ally, Russian               relations with such current or prospective
politicians tend to weigh carefully the costs      buyers of cost-effective Russian weapons
of any moves regarding ties with                   as Iran, China, India, or Syria. In other
Tehran.(11) Moscow's nuclear cooperation           words, while Russia has become the largest
with Iran, which Russian officials pledge is       exporter of conventional arms since 2001
exclusively confined to civilian nuclear           (responsible for 36 percent of all global
plant construction, has emerged as the most        arms transfers in 2002),(15) most of the
conspicuous issue in which the Russian             armaments exported are, technologically
leadership attempts to establish its own           speaking, relatively unsophisticated. Thus
foreign and strategic policy.(12) During a         while other countries can compete well on
2002 visit to Iran, Russian First Deputy           the open market, Russia's strategy has been
Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov              to sell lower quality weapons at
said, "Russia does not accept President            considerably lower prices, and to do so
George W. Bush's view that Iran is part of         means selling to poorer client states, some
‘an axis of evil.'"(13)                            of whom are inevitably going to be rogue
                                                   regimes. Thus, the overall proliferation-
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                 The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

prone forays of the Russian defense and           for their personal enrichment), but they are
high-tech enterprises are ultimately the          also driven by an inbred animosity toward
result of the poor state of the Russian           America. This group sees the United States
manufacturing industry, which still lags far      as Russia's main adversary from the Cold
behind the country's booming oil and gas-         War era and an alleged impediment to
pumping sector on which the national              Russia's great power revival. The defense
economy basically survives.                       industry, secret services, and the
   Finally, from a diplomatic perspective,        disgruntled military's mistrust of the goals
Iran is still viewed in Moscow as the major       of current U.S. foreign and military policy-
eventual supporter of Russia's role in the        -perceived as being ultimately anti-
region. Iran's importance as the prospective      Russian--leads them to predictably
recipient of the newest Russian arms and          conclude that Washington is attempting to
dual-use technologies will only grow with         impose arbitrary restraints on Russian
vigorous U.S. military-political activity in      exports of high technologies in order to
the Middle East and Persian Gulf.                 stymie their country as a competitor for
                                                  influence in the CIS.
RUSSIA'S IRANIAN CONNECTION                           Third, there is the usual midway faction
    Still, Russia's relations with Iran are       represented mostly by OPK officials and
inconsistent and characterized by discord         managers who change their positions
within Moscow's political and military            depending on the context. Today, by
circles. There is a compact pro-Western           winning an occasional large-scale contract,
group, who think that cooperation with the        say, from Lockheed Martin, they can
major industrial states, primarily the United     actively lobby for the expansion of
States, could benefit Russia much more            Russian-American cooperation in space,
than murky dealings with questionable             but tomorrow--as money peters out--they
partners like China, Iran, Iraq, or Libya.        would turn to buyers from rogue regimes or
The recent friction with Iran regarding           other suspicious clients. Thus, the
regional problems in the Caspian Sea basin        particular instability of the Russian
strengthened this position.                       economy seems to provide the basic reason
    There is also another powerful group          for the duality and inconsistency of
consisting of the representatives of the          Russian policy concerning the dangers of
floundering Russian Defense Industrial            WMD-related          technology     transfers,
Complex (OPK) and the special services.           specifically to Iran.(16)
This group promotes a different course of             Proponents of special ties with preferred
developing traditional strategic and              clients in the Third World have actively
economic ties with China and India or such        pushed for a continuation of arms deals
former Moscow clients as Iran, Syria, and         with Iran. They were particularly resolute
North Korea, while maintaining only               in their advocating for the annulment of the
conditional token cooperation with                Chernomyrdin commitment--a deal made
Washington in the global arena. It attempts       in June 1995 between U.S. Vice President
to lobby its position through a "class-           Al Gore and former Russian Premier
friendly" faction of KGB veterans in              Viktor Chernomyrdin to stop military
Putin`s entourage. It seems that the              cooperation with Iran in 2000 after the
members of this faction are driven not only       completion of previous contracts. This
by the desire to ensure purely economic           faction finally prevailed in 2000 after the
benefits for the survival and expansion of        disclosure of the secret deal by The New
the ailing Russian defense enterprises (and       York Times on October 13, 2000, which
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                                           Victor Mizin

according to The Washington Times, Gore             of government-sponsored nuclear and
had agreed not to make the public to any            missile technology transfers to Iran that
third parties, including the U.S.                   would be in violation of its international
Congress.(17)                                       nonproliferation      obligations.     These
    At the same time, persistent calls by           assurances by Russia have, however, been
Washington to terminate Russian exports to          repeatedly questioned. Further arguments
Iran were portrayed by these circles in             appeared when reports surfaced in early
Moscow as being motivated by the desire             1998 that the Russian FSB was in fact
of American corporations to save future             coordinating        clandestine       missile
opportunities in the Iranian market for             technology transfers to the Iranians--
themselves. To prove this, they cited the           allegations denied by Russian officials.(22)
recent writings of such foreign policy gurus        The vigorously developed missile industry
as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski,            of Iran is supposed--along with Russian-
and Brent Scowcroft that advocated closer           supplied aircraft--to provide reliable
ties with the putatively reformist Iranian          carriers for potential nuclear warheads.
political elite.(18)                                Furthermore, the mere existence of the
    Russian cooperation with Iran in                Shihab-3 missile program, with its 1300
developing its nuclear technology, as well          kilometer range and relatively poor
as its suspected aid in developing Iranian          accuracy (Circle of Error Probable 1-3km),
missiles, led to one of the rare difficult          implies that it is most likely meant to carry
moments         during     the     Moscow-St.       a strictly WMD payload.(23) Moscow has
Petersburg summit in May 2002. Russia               always declared that no infringements of
resolutely denied any wrongdoing and                the MTCR have been committed, but did
pledged that its cooperation with Iran was          admit the existence of "individual contacts"
strictly within the limits of its international     between Iranian and Russian entities.
obligations and in compliance with                  Through it all, the Russians refuse to be
international nonproliferation regimes.             shut out of the lucrative market of missile
President Putin remarked that Western               technologies.(24)
companies, not Russian entities, had                    Regarding Russia's nuclear cooperation
furnished Iran with missile and nuclear             with Iran, Putin is, perhaps, quite correct
technology. As Putin pointed out wryly,             when he underscores that "as far as energy
"the United States has taken on the                 is concerned, it focuses exclusively on
obligation of building a nuclear power              economic issues."(25) Russia expects to
station identical to the one in Bushehr in          reap up to $10 billion from its Bushehr deal
North Korea."(19) At the same time, he has          and arms sales to Iran, even if it is
suggested pressuring Iran to allow further          currently building the reactor on credit to
and      more       extensive     international     be paid by Iran only after the completion of
inspections of the Russian-built nuclear            the project. Sanctions and admonitions will
reactor there.(20) The issue of enticing Iran       not change Russia's relationship with one
into accepting further IAEA inspection              of the most demonized states in America's
commitments to their nuclear facilities was         "axis of evil" if no sound substitute is
reiterated at the St. Petersburg 2003               provided by the United States.
festivities, and more recently in June and              One can only agree with Richard Perle,
July when Iranian nuclear officials visited         an influential conservative member of the
Moscow to discuss their cooperation on              Defense Policy Board, who considers that
nuclear power.(21) Moscow continues to              this problem can be solved in a "business-
deny vehemently all direct U.S. accusations         like manner," and suggests, "If you want to
76                    Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)
                 The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

get this solved, don't send a diplomat. Send      nuclear weapons," a U.S. diplomat
a banker to discuss it."(26) A U.S.-Russia        stressed.(29)
working group was formed before the 2003              However, U.S. emissaries did not make
summit to resolve the problem. It is              much progress on the Russia-Iran issue.
difficult, however, to imagine what               According to a high-ranking U.S. diplomat
Washington could actually propose to the          directly involved in these talks, the
cash-strapped enterprises in the Russian          Pentagon was ready to purchase a number
military industrial complex as an offset to       of Russian-made armaments (specifically
the lucrative Iranian deals, short of buying      helicopters for use in Afghanistan by the
out the most thriving of them. The most           Northern Alliance), but only after Moscow
that could be achieved is to place as many        severed its ties with Tehran. As a powerful
stringent controls and checks on the Iranian      incentive, the United States contemplated
nuclear cooperation with Russia as                agreeing to the Russian import of nuclear
possible.(27)                                     waste (processed NPP fuel) from Taiwan,
                                                  South Korea or Japan. Washington was
IS     THERE        SUFFICIENT          U.S.      reportedly prepared, moreover, to order
LEVERAGE TO BUDGE MOSCOW                          NASA to procure more services from the
ON IRAN?                                          Russian aviation and space agency and to
    There is, however, much more than just        pay for some additional work on the
comprehensible commercial reasons for             International Space Station. The Iranian
Moscow's clinging to its Iranian                  link, however, was the only obstacle to
connection. Similar to the Russian                this.
opposition to American policy regarding               Evidently, influential circles in Moscow
Iraq in 2002 and 2003, this Iranian               considered American advances not enticing
imbroglio demonstrates that the Russian           enough to sever the established relationship
regime is anxious to show it is nobody's          with Tehran. Arms sales and nuclear
pawn and must be seriously reckoned with          transfers are, by and large, completely
as a major international player, if not a re-     opaque, especially if notorious rogue
emerging superpower.                              regimes are the recipients. This is what
    Even in the first major U.S.-Russian          differentiates these kinds of deals from the
discussion of the Iran connection following       proposed contracts with the Pentagon or
the September 11, 2001 attacks, American          NASA that were supposed to remain under
diplomats acknowledged Moscow's special           the oversight of Congress and relevant U.S.
relationship with Tehran. However, the            agencies, thus making any kind of payoffs
United States also argued "there are other        to Russian officials or entities almost
fields for Russia to make economic gains          impossible.
than transferring weapons and nuclear                 Therefore, Iranian dealings with the
technologies to Iran."(28) The United             Russian defense and nuclear lobbies
States has allegedly offered Russia               continue, as the United States is unable to
different possible compensations in return        offset them with any meaningful policy or
for "reconsidering" its Iran link. At the         wide-range financial bailout of the Russian
same time, it was pointed out that Iran was       entities. In the words of a Russian diplomat,
not a side issue. U.S.-Russian relations          the United States "never understood that
"cannot move forward while Russia is still        unless Minatom is offered an alternative
closely involved with Iran and Iran is            way to make money" it would not stop
supporting terrorism and aspiring to              doing business with Iran.(30) However,
                                                  probably taking Putin`s regime too much
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                                          Victor Mizin

for granted, the United States did not             isotope separation (MLIS) and atomic laser
seriously pursue the avenue of buying out          isotope separation (AVLIS).
Moscow from its "Iranian connection,"                  Some Russian experts predict, though
instead limiting its efforts only to the           clearly without any plausible basis, that if
habitual tug-of-war of bilateral diplomatic        no compromise over Bushehr is found in
squabbles and verbal admonition.                   the coming months, the United States may
                                                   use its new strategy of preemptive
HISTORY               OF          RUSSIAN          counterproliferation and bomb the Russian-
INTRANSIGENCE                                      built reactor even if Russian technicians are
   In defiance of U.S. pressure, Russia            still there.(34) In addition to the possibility
declared in July 2002 that it will finish          of American action, some Israeli cabinet
construction of the $840 million nuclear           figures have mentioned that they are
reactor in Bushehr, and that it plans to           contemplating taking pre-emptive action
build five more reactors over the next             (similar to the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi
decade (another in Bushehr and four in             Osiraq reactor) in order to remove the
Ahvaz, 40 miles from Tehran), for an               growing nuclear threat to its own
additional $10 billion.(31)                        survival.(35) The Russians seem to be
   U.S. concerns focus not on the                  running out of time to demonstrate a
mishandling of nuclear material from the           concerted effort to halt nuclear cooperation
1,000-megawatt       Bushehr      light-water      with Iran hoping, similar to the case in
reactor--Russia promises to import it as           Iraq, that the international community
waste fuel--but on the possibility that            would prevent the United States from
Russian know-how and expertise will                radical actions.
create a core cadre of Iranian nuclear
experts who could then apply their                 RADICAL STRATEGIES TO HEAD
acquired knowledge to a weapons program.           OFF IRAN'S NUCLEAR STRIVE
Moscow has in the past denied such an                  U.S. officials are concerned that Iran
eventuality. It underscores the fact that it       could evade the IAEA safeguards it
declined Iranian demands in 1990 to build          pledged to heed, citing Iraq's ability to
a more powerful heavy-water reactor and            conceal an extensive nuclear weapons
turned down Tehran's request for gas               program that international experts were
centrifuges (though Moscow was under               unable to uncover. CIA experts estimate
serious pressure from Washington).(32)             that Iran is now only 2 years away from
   Additionally, the Yeltsin government            having a nuclear bomb.(36) In any case,
also reportedly rejected a proposal to help        now that IAEA safeguards have been
the Iranians with their uranium mining             strengthened based on the Iraqi experience,
project. Similarly, the plans to sell Russian      Iranian power plants and nuclear activities
laser--based isotope separation enrichment         must remain under stringent oversight by
technology were scuttled under U.S.                the agency. Russian authorities persist in
pressure in 2000.(33)                              assuring the "business-as-usual" nature of
   However, one can not fully exclude              Moscow's nuclear cooperation with
some intangible exchanges between                  Tehran, hinting the entire affair is
leading Russian laser technology research          artificially inflated by the United
centers and the Laser Research Center              States.(37)
(RCLA) in Tehran that continuously works               Naturally, even if Tehran finally caved
for the AEOI (Iran's Atomic Energy                 in to U.S. pressure for IAEA inspections
Organization) on both the molecular laser          along the lines of the Agency's Additional
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                The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

Protocol (as recent events indicate),             that Moscow will finally secure this
nothing prevents the regime, if bent on           important Iranian deal.
nuclear weapons status, from stringing
along the international overseers while           ENTER PUTIN
continuing the clandestine research at                Similar to its position on Iraq, Russia is
undisclosed and dispersed facilities.             playing a complex game regarding its
Nothing in the internationally imposed            cooperation with Iran. Putin's stunning
arrangements, even possible UN Security           gesture at the Evian G-8 meeting allegedly
Council sanctions, could stop a country           promising to forego the Iranian nuclear
from deceiving the world community, as            deal was correctly regarded by the Western
the North Korean and Iraqi examples               commentators as another KGB-style trick
demonstrated.(38)                                 in attempt to demonstrate Russia's good
   Recent revelations of extensive Iranian        will and new spirit of cooperation in the
nuclear program facilities point to Tehran's      aftermath of the Iraq fiasco. (42) It
strong efforts toward the appropriation of a      arguably intended to create a certain
full-fledged nuclear cycle program that           confusion in the West on real Russian
could allow the indigenous manufacturing          intentions and even prompted Russian
of nuclear weapons, in contravention of           assurances to Iran that all those mixed
Russian allegations to the contrary.              signals did not mean Moscow is practicing
According to the U.S. position, these             double-standards with regards to its nuclear
enrichment facilities and the full-cycle are      ties with Iran.(43) Russian officials later
unjustified for Iranian needs. Additionally,      scurried to explained that Putin actually
the known resources of indigenous uranium         meant the precondition of making Iran sign
in Iran are limited and cannot provide            the bilateral protocol on the return of the
enough fuel for the projected NPP                 processed nuclear fuel from Bushehr to
program.(39) While Iran and Russia claim          Russia, and not the IAEA Additional
to be following international agreements on       protocols on the enhanced inspections of
their nuclear activities, much of Iran's          Tehran's nuclear facilities.(44)
current     revelations    are    even    in          However, the mighty Minatom, the
contravention with its original agreement         Russian Leviathan of nuclear energy
with Moscow on the handling of spent              ministry, soon overruled the president
fuel.(40)                                         himself.(45) Minatom made it clear, after
   Constant U.S. tracking and diplomatic          some vague pronouncements of Russian
pressure have thwarted such potentially           mid-level officials, that Moscow will
dangerous transfers of Russian technology         continue its nuclear dealings with Tehran.
as laser enrichment from Yefremov                 Russia is contemplating a proposal to
Scientific Research Institute (NIIEFA).(41)       increase Iran's nuclear capacity by 6000
Iran's initial deal with Russia in 1995           megawatts by 2020.(46) The Russian
included a centrifuge plant that would have       Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed
provided Iran with fissile material. The          that Moscow will supply Iran with fuel for
plant deal was then canceled (as was the          the Bushehr reactor even if it does not sign
laser deal and a uranium mining project)          the IAEA Additional protocols.(47) While
under American insistence. At the same            President Putin has assured the world that
time, recent U.S.-Russian bilateral contacts      Iran is bound to demonstrate full NPT
over the matter as well as Tehran's               compliance before the Russian nuclear
ostensibly new openness on its nuclear            transfers occur, the Russian Foreign
program toward the IAEA could indicate            Ministry has stated that the IAEA's failure
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                     79
                                          Victor Mizin

to condemn Iran has opened the door for            nuclear cooperation with Iran, doing
Russia to help build future reactors in that       everything possible to provide for
country.(48) The real question will be             verification of transactions, which would
whether Russia will supply any fuel to Iran        exclude any military spin-offs, even though
if it appears that Tehran will not return it       they have begun to air concerns (agreeing
and how Tehran's possible machinations             with the United States) that Iran is
with it can be controlled.                         becoming a nuclear threat.(54) Ideally,
                                                   Russia could be cajoled into building just
ANY SOLUTIONS IN SIGHT?                            one reactor at Bushehr.
    U.S.-Russian sparring over Iran could             Further, the United States could award
hardly be easily resolved. However, both           Moscow with commercial contracts and
sides are aware of the need for a                  politically support its accession to the
compromise and are seemingly interested            WTO, which could completely compensate
in smoothing over remaining contradictions         for the loss of nuclear cooperation with
on this issue. Some vague hints on possible        Iran. However, it is possible that Russia
Russian flexibility on the issue were aired,       would balk at this deal, because for
but so far Russia has given no official            Moscow to relinquish its stance could be
commitment to abandon nuclear assistance           seen as a softening its image as an
to Iran.(49) By the same token, the U.S.           unbendable, independent            player in
administration has not, perhaps, used all of       international       relations.(55)     Despite
the tools of persuasion in its arsenal.(50)        diplomatic overtures, there are no signs of
An innovative approach in American                 Moscow's actual desire to close the deal,
diplomacy regarding Iran is needed for any         thus signaling a kind of diplomatic victory
possible breakthrough to occur.                    for Moscow's relations with Washington.
    It is clear that the United States is not      On the contrary, all indications point to the
able to provide enough sources of revenue          Kremlin's desire to upgrade its nuclear
to equal Moscow's profits from its dealings        connection, if not to persuade Washington
with Iran in nuclear and arms sales, which         of the benign and legitimate nature of
Russia considers to be absolutely                  Tehran's nuclear aspirations, in an attempt
legitimate, while compensating for the             to portray itself as a sort of honest broker in
political loss of face.(51)                        the region.(56)
    The most that could realistically be              Tehran has declared its theoretical
achieved here is making Russia adhere to           readiness to sign an additional IAEA
its commitments that it would provide only         protocol if relevant clarifications are given
defensive weapons to Tehran, also pressing         and other countries would in return assist
Moscow to restrict the volume of such              Iran in developing a broader peaceful
shipments.(52) The arms dealers in                 nuclear power program.(57) However, it is
Moscow, however, are ready to turn Iran            difficult to determine if this is a sincere
into Russia's third most important client          overture by the Iranians to put a halt to
after China and India.(53) The United              their nuclear ambitions or only a tactical
States could start discussing with Russia          move designed to assuage the immediate
the possibility of launching a new                 pressure of the international community
initiative, building on the 1991 Arms              while gaining additional time to create the
Control and Regional Security (ACRS) in            infrastructure for its nuclear weapons
the Middle East.                                   programs. Of course, in the end, much will
    Russia could also be made to continue          depend on the domestic Iranian struggle
proceeding with utmost care in its further         between moderates and conservatives, the
80                   Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)
                 The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

resolution of which could have significant        Tehran to assure American presence in the
repercussions the country's ties with             area.
Moscow and Washington.
    Thus far, the U.S.-Russian exchange           CONCLUSIONS
regarding the Iranian conundrum could be              While the U.S. and Iran's positions are
termed as a dialogue of the deaf. Perhaps,        clear, it is Russia who appears to have
Washington should start negotiations              room for potential flexibility in the
directly with Minatom and other nuclear           situation by once again serving as a useful
enterprises that prosper from the nuclear         middleman, if not an ally, of the United
contracts with Iran rather than with the          States.(59) Many of the recent revelations
Kremlin, which appears to have little say in      have begun to make some Russian experts
the matter.(58) Moscow and Washington             worry about Iran's facilities and end
should definitely address ways to further         goals.(60) According to some sources,
patch the gaps in the current NPT                 Russian diplomacy has been tirelessly
enforcement. In this particular case, it          engaged in persuading Tehran to accede to
could lead to a kind of ad hoc agreement to       the IAEA demands demonstrating its good
prevent Iran from uranium enrichment and          will and full compliance with the NPT.
plutonium manufacturing in return to              Nevertheless, this seems to be only a
certain concessions from Washington like a        tribute to political correctness regarding
non-aggression pledge or the resumption of        nonproliferation as Minatom is pushing
diplomatic relations. Even President Nixon,       forward with the signature of the approved
at the height of the war in Vietnam, sent         draft of the protocol on the return of the
Henry Kissinger to work out deals with            spent fuel to open the way to the deliveries
Chinese,      Vietnamese      and    Laotian      of new fuel to the Iranian reactor.
adversaries.     The nuclear conundrum                The Iranian nuclear connection to
provides a possible pretext for establishing,     Moscow's ruling elite stands out as a telling
at a minimum, a representation office in          symbol of a new Russian external policy. It
Tehran, if the United States does not want        would require a lot of inventiveness, vision
to completely relegate the solution of this       and audacity from Washington to
issue to its European allies.                     drastically change the course of events in
    Washington policy planners might wish         what might become a symbolic shift of the
to assess the entire Iranian tangle in a          two countries' dialogue and interaction on a
broader scope of the regional security            global     level    while     simultaneously
issues while contemplating the motives            benefiting stability in the Middle East.
behind Tehran's quest for nuclear status
(the inferiority complex in confrontation         *Dr. Victor Mizin, a former Russian
with Iraq, the obsession with Israeli             diplomat specializing in arms control,
strategic plans, or the suspicion of U.S.         nonproliferation and global security
power projection there). A shrewd move            problems, is currently the Diplomat-in-
would be the initiation of a regional             Residence and Senior Research Associate
security conference under U.S.-Russian-           with the Center for Nonproliferation
French (EU) co-sponsorship. This not only         Studies of the Monterey Institute for
would heal the wounded relationship with          Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey,
both Paris and Moscow, but also bridge the        California.
restoration of some kind of relation with
the putatively ‘democratizing' regime in          NOTES

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                    81
                                        Victor Mizin

1. "Vlad the Impaler," Economist, October         8.     Central     Intelligence     Agency,
30, 2003; Ethan S. Burger and Evgenia             "Unclassified Report to Congress on the
Sorokina, "Vladimir Putin's ‘Dictatorship         Acquisition of Technology Relating to
of Law': Its Potential Implications for the       Weapons of Mass Destruction and
Business and Legal Communities,"                  Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1
November 19, 2003.                                January Through 30 June 2002."
2. See for example the laudatory work of          <
Vladimir Orlov, Roland Timerbaev, and             s/jan_jun2002.html#13>.
Anton           Khlopkov,          "Nuclear       9. Ambassador G. Berdennikov, "Russian
Nonproliferation       in      U.S.-Russian       Priorities     and       Approaches       to
Relations: Challenges and Opportunities,"         Nonproliferation:      Preventing      Mass
PIR Center, Moscow, 2002; Anton                   Destruction Terrorism and Weapons
Khlopkov, "Iranian Nuclear Program in             Proliferation," A strategy session of the
Russian-American Relations," (Russian)            Monterey Nonproliferation Strategy Group;
PIR Center Scientific Papers, No. 18, 2001.       Robert J. Einhorn and Gary Samore,
3. Stephen Blank, "Russia: Proliferation          "Ending Russian Assistance to Iran's
Personified," Asia Times, April 17, 2003.         Nuclear Bomb," Survival, Vol. 44, No. 2
4. Chahram Chubin and Robert Litwak,              (Summer 2002), p. 60.
"Debating Iran's Nuclear Aspirations,"            10. On various nuances of the Russian
Washington Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 43,            approach to the Iranian issue, see V.
p.111.                                            Orlov, "Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Export
5. Glenn Kessler "Powell Backs Iran               Controls: Facts and Conclusions," The
Protests, But Says Talks Are Possible,"           Monitor, CITS, (Spring-Summer 1998); V.
Washington Post, June 18, 2003                    Moskvin,        "The         Russian-Iranian
<                Conundrum and Proliferation Concerns,"
dyn/articles/A7148-2003Jun17.html>.               The Monitor, (Winter-Spring 1999); Y.
6. For more on this, see Senator Biden's          Zvedre, "U.S. View of Russian-Iranian
remarks      as    quoted     in    Charles       Relations: Instrumental Distortions," The
Krauthammer, "A World Imagined," The              Monitor,     (Winter     2001);    Gennady
New Republic, March 15, 1999                      Khromov, "Russian-Iranian Relations and
<        Unilateral U.S. Sanctions," The Monitor,
icy/krauthammer3-10-99.htm>.                      (Winter 2001); Alexander Pikayev,
7. Evgeniy Antonov, "Russia: N. Korea             "Strategic Dimensions of the Russo-Iranian
Nuclear Program Demonstrates that Non-            Partnership," The Monitor, (Winter 2001).
Proliferation Regime of 1968 is No Longer         11. On Russian-Iranian geostrategic
Effective," (Russian) Politburo, November         squabbles in the Caspian area, see Andrey
25, 2002.                                         Piontkovsky, "Russky Patriot kak Lobbist
     President Bush's recent initiative           Irana," (Russian), June 14,
proposes interesting ways to clamp down           2002,
on the WMD proliferation attempts of the          <>
few global rogues. "Remarks by the                ; "Burya nad Kaspiem," (Russian)
President on Weapons of Mass Destruction          <http://www.stringer-
Proliferation," Fort Lesley J. McNair,  
National Defense University, Washington,          ault.asp>.
D.C., February 11, 2004                           12. A good factual piece on the initial
<          phase of the bilateral cooperation is Ivan
/2004/02/20040211-4.html>.                        Safranchuk, "The Nuclear and Missile
82                   Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)
                 The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

Programs of Iran and Russian Security,"           "An Opening to Iran," Washington Post,
Scientific Papers, No. 8, PIR Center, May         May 11, 2001.
1999.                                             19. Ron Hutcheson, "Putin Offers
13. "Russia, EU Oppose Inclusion of Iran          Inspectors in Iran," Philadelphia Inquirer,
on ‘Axis of Evil' List," Tehran Times, July       May 27, 2002.
21,                                      2002     20. Hutcheson, "Putin Offers Inspectors in
<             Iran."
news/719601/posts>;                               21. Sabrina Tavernise, "Russia Presses Iran
<                  to Accept Scrutiny on Nuclear Sites," New
bin/                York Times, June 30, 2003
1&a=13>.                                          <
14.     Natalya      Khmelik,      "Torgovtzy     national/europe/01RUSS.html>.
Oruzhiem Potirayut Ruki," (Russian)               22. "Russian-Iranian Cooperation Pursues
<    Only Peaceful, Civilian Goals," Press
>                                                 Release No. 10, March 5, 1998
15. Bjorn Hagelin, Pieter D. Wezeman,             <
Siemon T. Wezeman and Nicholas                    5.html>.
Chipperfield,        "International      arms     23. "Shahab-4," Federation of American
transfers,"    SIPRI      Yearbook      2003:     Scientists,
Armaments,           Disarmament          and     <
International Security (Oxford: Oxford            e/shahab-4.htm>.
University Press, 2003)                           24. Konstantin Makienko, "The Outlook
<       for     Russian-Iranian     Arms     Trade:
l>.                                               Opportunities           and         Risks,"
16. Scott Petterson, " Russian Nuclear            <
Know-How Pours Into Iran," Christian              march-apr/makienko.html>.
Science Monitor, July 21, 2002, p. 1;             25. Ron Hutcheson, "Putin Offers
Michael Eisenstadt, "Russian Arms and             Inspectors in Iran," Philadelphia Inquirer,
Technology Transfers to Iran: Policy              May 27, 2002; "Putin and Bush Sign N-
Challenges for the United States," Arms           Deal," CNN, May 24, 2002.
Control Today, March 2001.                        26. "US Sent Data to Russia on Iran,"
17. John Broder, "Despite Secret 95 Pact          Middle East Newsline 4, May 29, 2002.
by Gore, Russian Arms Sales to Iran Go            27. David Albright, "The Russian Iranian
on," New York Times, October 13, 2000;            Reactor Deal," Nonproliferation Review,
Steven Muffson, "Gore Hit on Russian              Vol. 2, No. 3 (Spring-Summer 1995), p.
Arms Deals," New York Times, October              51.
14, 2000; The Washington Times, October           28. Pavel Felgenhauer, "Who Will Be
17, 2000; Jim Hoagland, "From Russia              Russia's Best Friend in the Future: The US
with Chutzpah," Washington Post,                  or Iran and Other Undesirables?" CDI
November                                   22,    Russia Weekly, No. 224, September 25,
2000; <         2002,       <
t/reports/iranarmstransf.pdf>.                    4.cfm>.
18. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft          29. Felgenhauer, "Who Will Be Russia's
and Richard Murphy, "Differentiated               Best Friend in the Future"; and
Containment," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76,           <
No. 3 (May/June 1997); for a more recent          ssia/nuke_industry/waste_imports/
opinion on this issue, see Brent Scowcroft,       ml>.
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                  83
                                          Victor Mizin

30. Mark Hibbs, Nuclear Fuel, September            39. While it possesses nine percent of the
30, 2002. A summary can be found at                world's proven oil reserves (and potentially
<           even more if one counts the newly
02/10/11/5s.html>.                                 discovered Azadegan and Abadan sites),
31. Peter Baker, "Russia unyielding on Iran        Iran's assured resources of uranium amount
Nuclear Project," Washington Post, August          only to 491 tons, with recoverable potential
16, 2002.                                          of additional 876 tons at the cost of $130
32. Scott Peterson, "Russian Nuclear               per kg. Its goal program of 6,000 MW,
Know-How Pours Into Iran," Christian               however, needs around 900 tons of pure
Science Monitor, June 21, 2002                     uranium annually--thus Iran is bound to be
<             tied to Russian fuel supplies for the
1s03-woeu.html>.                                   foreseeable future. "Survey of Energy
33. Judith Miller, "U.S. Asks Putin Not to         Resources 2001," World Energy Council
Sell Iran a Laser System," New York                <
Times, September 19, 2000.                         geis/edc/countries/Iran.asp>.
34. Pavel Felgengauer, "Dirty Bomb Threat          40. Paul Kerr, "Iran Mining Uranium,
Is Real," Moscow Times, June 20, 2002.             Greatly Expanding Nuclear Facilities,"
35. Anton La Guardia, "Rice warns of               Arms Control Today, March 2003
‘Made in America' solution to Iran's               <
nuclear plans," Daily Telegraph, June 6,           ran_mar03.asp?print>. The agreement,
2003                                               however, has yet to be signed as of the
<           publication of this article, as the proviso for
in.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/06/27/wiran27.x            the fuel to be shipped--though with Iran
ml&sSheet=/news/2003/06/27/ixnewstop.h             mining its own uranium now, Russia may
tml>.                                              be left out of its original profits from the
36. Michael Ledeen, "The Nuclear Axis of           return of the spent fuel.
Evil," National Review Online, May 12,             41. Alex Wagner, "Moscow Puts Hold on
2003                                               Transfer of Laser Isotope Separator to
<           Iran," Arms Control Today, October 2000
deen051203.asp>. See also Michael                  <
Eisenstadt, "Iranian Nuclear Weapons, Part         ranoct00.asp>.
I: The Challenges of U.S. Preventive               42. Andrew Jack, "Putin's New Rules of
Aaction," PolicyWatch, No. 760, May 27,            Protocol," Financial Times, June 9, 2003;
2003                                               "Confusion on Russian Nuclear Deal with
<          Iran," Financial Times, June 5, 2003.
/Policywatch/policywatch2003/760.htm>.             43. "Russian Ambassador Discusses US
37. See, for example, the interview of             Stance Toward Iran, Nuclear Cooperation,
former Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov             Caspian," Tehran Iran Daily (Internet
to Vremya Novostey, a Moscow-based pro-            version), June 2, 2003.
Kremlin newspaper, June 6, 2003,                   44. Alexander Goltz, "Na Chistuyu
<           Tyazhelyuyu          Vodu,"          (Russian)
3>.                                                Ezhednevny Zhurnal, June 25, 2003.
38. Additional Protocol (INFCIRC/540)              45. On Minatom's lobbying potential in
should not be considered a panacea as only         Moscow`s corridors of power, see Anna
declared facilities related to Iran's nuclear      Badkhen,      "Kremlin       Can`t     Control
program or those revealed by Tehran are            Secretive Nuke Agency," San Francisco
open to inspection.                                Chronicle, September 1, 2002.
84                   Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)
                The Russia-Iran Nuclear Connection and U.S. Policy Options

46. "Russia Close to Delivering Nuclear           ssia/nuke_industry/co-
Fuel to Iran, Minister Says," The Russia          operation/29647.html>.
Journal      Daily,      July     3,   2003       55. Simon Saradzhyan, "Russia Needs Iran
<             Proof or Incentives," Moscow Times, June
article.shtml?nd=39168>.                          03, 2003.
47. "Russia Insists it will Send Nuclear          56. Viktor Sokolov, "Pochemu Tegeram ne
Fuel to Iran," Gazeta, June 6, 2003               podpisyvaet      Dopolnitelnyi    Protocol,"
<       (Russian), June 30, 2003
sist.shtml>.                                      <>.
48. "Russia: Moscow says IAEA statement           57. "Iran will agree to tougher UN
clears way for nuclear cooperation with           inspections,", July 03,
Iran," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,           2003.
June 21, 2003.                                    58. Pavel Felgenhauer, "US Talking to the
49. Scott Petterson, "Russia Grows Wary           Wrong Guy," Moscow Times, June 5,
of Iran Nukes," Christian Science Monitor,        2003.
June 10, 2003; David Holley, "Iran Nuclear        59. Ariel Cohen, "Preventing A Crisis in
Threat Worries Russians," Los Angeles             U.S.-Russian Relations over Moscow's
Times, February 27, 2003; "Russia                 Nuclear Technology Exports," The
Concerned at Possibility of WMD                   Heritage         Foundation       Executive
Development by Iran," Interfax, March             Memorandum, No. 863, March 2003.
24,2003.                                          60. David Holley, "Iran Nuclear Threat
50. William Safire, "Testing Putin on Iran,"      Worries Russians," Los Angeles Times,
New York Times, May 23, 2002; Robert J.           February 27, 2003; Rebecca Santana, "Iran
Einhorn and Gary Samore, "Ending                  Deal Makes Russia Uneasy," The Atlanta
Russian Assistance to Iran's Nuclear              Journal-Constitution, June 15, 2003
Bomb."                                            <
51. For some suggestions for positive             603/15russiairan.html>.
inducements regarding Moscow's approach
to this issue, see Christina Chuen, "Russian
Nuclear Exports to Iran: U.S. Policy
Change         Needed,"       Center     for
Nonproliferation Studies
52. "Russian Defense Minister Defends
Arms Sales to Iran, North Korea,
Moscow," (Russian) Agenstvo Voyennykh
Novostey, September 23, 2002.
53. Alexandr Plotnikov, "Raketnyi
Komplex klassa ‘Moskva-Tegeran' k startu
gotov," (Russian) February 25, 2003
54. Charles Digges, "Russia Agrees with
US That Iran Poses a Nuclear Threat,"
Bellona,          May         20,      2003
Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2004)                   85