Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Moscow to speed up the completion of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty follow-on agreement with Russia continues to highlight the difficulty of dealing with Moscow even when the two countries ostensibly share common interests. Although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed an agreement would be reached before the end of the month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greeted Clinton with an announcement that the nuclear plant Russia is helping Iran build in Bushehr will begin operations this summer.
This is the latest example of Moscow’s steps that undermine the bilateral relationship.
President Obama can press the “reset” button all he wants, but it doesn’t seem to matter because when it comes to arms control and Iran, Russian policy ranges from unhelpful to outright disruptive.
Despite recent hints that Russia is more willing to go along with Iran sanctions, the Administration needs to accept that the Kremlin will not be as cooperative as the U.S. would like them to be in deterring Teheran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “Powerful Russian special interests–security, nuclear, oil and gas, and the military-industrial complex–are vehemently opposed to any significant reversal of Russian policy toward Iran,” argues Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Dr. Ariel Cohen. “Therefore, it is naïve, if not dangerous, to hope that Moscow will provide decisive assistance in the U.N. Security Council or bilaterally vis-à-vis Iran.”
As President Obama has become increasingly involved in the START follow-on negotiations, he has slowly discovered the challenge of concluding a deal. In particular, Russia’s insistence on linking arms-control to missile defense has been one of the more recent points of contention.
It turns out that charming Putin and Medvedev into changing their positions on issues of great importance to US national interests is a lot harder than expected.
Jeffrey Chatterton currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/About/Internships-Young-Leaders/The-Heritage-Foundation-Internship-Program