October 19, 2007

Vladimir's convenient relationship

... while the Russians have never had a great affinity for the Iranians, it is the United States not Iran, that bothers them mostly ... Iran and Russia share some major interests. For starters, both feel besieged by the United States and the West ...

How perfectly expedient, here we have Putin cuddling up with Tehran for mostly the wrong reasons. In an image that reflected some chumminess, Mr Putin appeared in newspaper photographs standing side by side with Ahmadinejad during an historic visit to Tehran this week, but Bush dismissed any notion that the picture reflected chumminess.

Historically Russia's relationship with its southern Persian neighbour has been rocky and even today the thought of a rising regional power with nuclear ambitions in central Asia is not particularly welcomed. Peter Brooke's latest piece at Real Clear Politics is interesting for it highlights that while the Russians have never had a great affinity for the Iranians, it is the United States not Iran, that bothers them mostly.

Nor is Iran stepping in unison with its northern neighbour, after all, Russia has supported United Nations sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program. Says Brooke's.

"But Iran and Russia share some major interests. For starters, both feel besieged by the United States and the West - and need ways to check what they see as encroachment on their interests.

At the very least, Putin can use Tehran to keep the United States off-balance - for example, Bush is far from the only U.S. policymaker who'll be trying to divine exactly what Putin's assertion to "not even think of using force in this region" means - and what the consequences of ignoring that admonition might be.

The Kremlin also wants to stop the U.S. missile-defense system planned for Eastern Europe. The sites are meant to counter Iranian missiles, but the Russians are still dyspeptic about the idea. Putin could use his Iran ties as a bargaining chip on "Son of Star Wars" - that is, refusing to help the West isolate Tehran unless we drop the anti-missile project.

Alternately, Russia could also use an embrace of Iran as a check on the further expansion of NATO into Ukraine or Georgia - or to demand that the Europeans get nations like the Baltic countries to accept arms limits under the the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, reducing the potential threat to Moscow's west. Iran and Russia share another huge interest: Both regimes rely on their vast earnings from energy sales. Putin was in Tehran for a summit of the five nations that border the Caspian Sea: He wants to ensure that Russia has generous access to Caspian oil and gas.

Putin's also looking to sign up Tehran for his newest evil-genius project: an OPEC-like cartel for natural-gas supplies.

In fact, prolonging the diplomatic crisis over Iran's nuclear-weapons program helps keep Moscow's coffers overflowing - because every bit of tension in the region ensures that energy prices will stay high, maximizing the profits of exporters like Russia.

And, since high energy prices also leave Tehran flush with cash, it opens a lucrative arms market for Russia, too. Moscow has already sold Iran $1 billion in weapons - mostly air-defense systems, which would help Tehran protect nuclear sites from air attack".

Indeed Bush may be smarting a little given that he has publicly stated "he and Mr Putin saw eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear threat … We don't agree on a lot of issues," Mr Bush said. "We do agree on some. Iran is one; nuclear proliferation is another."

For all the distrust, Putin intends making good use of Iran, another reason to be concerned about Russia's latest emergence.

Feel free to comment ...

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12 comments:

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Thanks for the post: You saved me some time, dealing with this subject.

WWII comparisons have probably become tiresome, at least in some quarters, but here's one more.

Russia and Iran have a few financial and burr-under-the-blanket interests in common: but they can't be said to be on the same page, ideologically or otherwise.

WWII analogy: Germany and Italy? More to the point, Germany and Japan?

It's nowhere close to a one-to-one similarity, but the 'common enemy' aspect jumped out for me.

David Schantz said...

When I look at the photo I keep thinking, they don't trust/like each other, so why the handshake? Then I remember an old quote, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

Goat said...

Thanks for the link Otto.
The Russion Bear is fat and getting sassy. We need to open our own vast reserves of oil and gas but the loony enviromentalists, won't let us look for it or tap into what we have. They would rather we lived in caves and ate nuts and berries than misplace a few mosquitos and caribou. Oh I forgot the moonbats are socialists too and root against the US and think we should be taken down a notch, now it makes sense.

heidianne jackson said...

good information here, otto. as i said elsewhere, when in central europe this summer my friend and i took an informal poll and were unable to find anyone living in the czech republic or poland NOT in favor the anti-missile sites.

russian and iran are doing the "enemy of my enemy" gig. but i don't think it's a strong alliance or that it will even last very long...

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Remember Putin has stated recently that the US can be considered an enemy. Which again fits in the enemy of my enemy category.

Also you just can't trust a former KGB especially when his name sounds like a bodily funtion!

Debbie said...

I'm sure Bush regrets the day he said that about looking into Putin's eyes.

Paul Champagne said...

Do you remember when the ayatollahs in Iran used to call Russia the "little satan", how times have changed.

Wonder if the next leader Putin meets with will be Hugo Chavez.

Tapline said...

Otto, I look at Russia today and think....Most of what we grew up with is gone and what is left is a shell of its formee USSR. Today, it is not a great nation and shouldn't be recognized as such. We forget what a terriblly repressive regime this was. We a leapard doesn't change its' spots. They were a nation not to be trusted and remain that way. Our president is nieve, if he does not think Russia is a threat. They are but not the threat they maintained in prior years. I ramble....stay well....

WomanHonorThyself said...

hey there Otto...great read..Tapline is right.......and yes I agree ..another threat.........sigh..ty for the link my friend!!

American Interests said...

Brian: Hope I didn't stop you posting on this, your take would have been interesting. WWII comparisons may be hackneyed but provide useful and relevent fodder.

D.Schantz: Enemy of enemy LOL, of course...

Goat: That's funny Goat, perhaps exageratted but accurate. I concur...

Heidianne: The informal poll results you refer to are interesting. I agree that the phoney relationship won't be enduring...

Lib LC Truth: Well s;lowly but truly Putin is moving russia back into the enemy territory, what was htat old say, "you can take the man out of the KGB, but you can never take the KGB out of the man".

Debbie: I think Bush was trying to be courteous, when he said earlier in the year tht "russia was not the enemy"; one sensed he actually meant it. Putin's recent antics and words have changes this.

P.Champagne: Russia was the "little Satan" not that long ago. They (and Chavez now that he's mentioned) are trying to gang up on America. They (critters) underestimate your nation!

Tapline: I agree that they should not be trusted and whilst not as threatening as they once were, Russia is re-emerging both in military and diplomatic stregnth.

WomanHThyself: Thanks Angel keep up the good fight...

heidianne jackson said...

i might add to that poll, otto. i had my exchange student (a native of the czech republic) write to his family members and ask them their feelings on it. he heard back from all 16 adults he wrote to and every one of them is in favor the u.s. placing the sites there.

not exactly the viewpoint the msm, here and abroad, is giving...

American Interests said...

Heidianne: msm sometimes does not actaully report mainstream views does it? Typical I guess...

Really appreciate your comments, take care and sent an email ...