September 28, 2011 by Alejandro M. Sueldo
Russia relishes in its role as both the gate keeper to Iran and Tehran’s voice to the West. This bipolar Iran policy, however, is destined to backfire. The Kremlin perceives that its role as the principle interlocutor between Tehran and the P5+1 reaffirms in western and Chinese eyes Russia’s position as a global leader, while affording Moscow a key issue with which to leverage the West on matters of interest to the Kremlin.
While Russia has at times supported UN sanctions on Iran because of Tehran’s intransigence with its nuclear program, Moscow has done so timidly so as to not undermine ties with Iran or appear as if Russia is capitulating to western, and namely American, prerogatives. But by doing so, Moscow also buys Iran time to advance its nuclear program, makes the P5+1 look divided in the eyes of Tehran and the international community, and creates a moral hazard by appearing soft on states seeking to join the nuclear club. Nevertheless, much like the West, Moscow recognizes that short of a military strike, there is little Russia can do to seriously curb Iran’s nuclear program.