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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora