News / Europe

Russia Toughens Iran Stance, Still Opposes US Missile Defense

This April 9, 2012 photo provided by the Institute for Science and International Security, ISIS shows suspected cleanup activities at a building alleged to contain a high explosive chamber used for nuclear weapon related tests in the Parchin military comp
This April 9, 2012 photo provided by the Institute for Science and International Security, ISIS shows suspected cleanup activities at a building alleged to contain a high explosive chamber used for nuclear weapon related tests in the Parchin military comp
International negotiations over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program are stalled, according to experts on the issue, and there are deep divisions about what to do next.

The latest negotiating session, bringing together representatives from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran, was held last month in Baghdad. Very little progress was achieved with the next meeting scheduled in Moscow for mid-June.

The United States and the European Union believe Iran's uranium enrichment program is designed ultimately to build nuclear weapons. Tehran rejects that view, saying it wants to use its enriched uranium for peaceful purposes, such as electricity.

The conventional wisdom is that Russia's economic interests in Iran have led Moscow to be a strong supporter of that country.

But at the same time, experts say since the beginning of the Obama administration, Russia has gradually toughened its stance on Iran, voting at the United Nations to establish stricter sanctions against Tehran.

"The U.S.-Russian position on Iran and the challenge of Iran's program, officials within the administration tell me, is as close as it has ever been," says Robert Legvold of Columbia University.

However Legvold says there are still disagreements between Washington and Moscow, especially about the idea of a military strike against Iran.

"The Russians are very antsy [nervous] about such an idea," he says, "whether it's Israel that executes it or whether it is some kind of a U.S. option, or the U.S. with Israel together."

Legvold says Moscow also continues "to push much harder on the diplomatic option rather than further tightening of sanctions."

Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at Princeton University and New York University, says Moscow did more than vote for tougher economic sanctions.

"Russia cancelled a deal it had with the Iranian government to supply it with anti-aircraft missile," says Cohen, "the kind of anti-aircraft missiles that Iran would need to defend itself if it was attacked by Israel or the United States, which remains, by the way, on at least the theoretical agenda."

Those were "enormous concessions by Moscow," says Cohen.

But experts say one area where Moscow will not compromise, is missile defense - a U.S.-led concept closely linked to the Iran nuclear issue.

In an effort to counter the possible nuclear missile threat from Tehran, the Obama administration's plan calls for deploying a system of anti-missile interceptors based at sea on destroyers and cruisers and coupled with advanced land-based versions, some of which would be based in former Warsaw Pact countries.  

Russia has consistently opposed U.S. plans for a ballistic-missile defense system in Europe. Moscow does not believe the goal is to defend against missile attacks from such countries as Iran. Russian officials see the U.S. project as aimed against Moscow's nuclear missiles - a charge denied by the United States.

Experts, such as Robert Legvold, say Moscow's criticism is with the last phase of the deployment scheduled for 2020.

"That is an intercontinental [anti-]ballistic missile system designed to defend the entire continent," says Legvold. "And those, theoretically, depending on where they are deployed, could be something of a threat to the Russian nuclear deterrent."

At the recent NATO summit in Chicago, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the missile defense shield. Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited but did not attend. Some experts say he stayed away to emphasize his opposition to the missile defense shield.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More