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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs