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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs