Nicholas Gvosdev, known for leading the realist view on Russia, has an interesting post listing some “game changers” which could tilt the calculus to achieve effective international consensus on Iran. Though sometimes in the past my thinking has often contrasted with Gvosdev, we’re right on the same page in believing that nobody should have high expectations about improvements in U.S.-Russia cooperation on proliferation following the missile shield concession.
1) Growing instability in Iran that threatens the security of the country’s nuclear installations and risks the loss of material to forces hostile to Russia.
2) A change in regime in Iran that becomes much more hostile to Russia. At present Iran has never encouraged Islamic extremism in Russia and worked to stabilize Central Asia. A different government in Tehran that starts talking about liberating oppressed co-religionists from the heights of the Caucasus mountains to the northern Volga is a different story altogether.
3) Direct, immediate compensation to Russia of the accounts thatwould be lost should Russia agree to sanctions. For instance, wouldSaudi Arabia realistically offer to purchase the equivalent of whatIran wants to buy from Russia’s arms exporters?
4) Russia benefits from the current Western sanctions regime on Iranbecause it prevents Iran’s formidable energy reserves from being usedas market pressure on Russia as a supplier to Europe. If Moscow isn’tparticularly worried about Iran’s ability to safeguard its nuclearprogram, it isn’t going to be in a hurry to facilitate the U.S.settling its differences with Tehran in order for Iran to then be usedto erode Russia’s market share. Some delicate way, then, of suggestingthat most of Iran’s energy should head eastward–particularly to ahungry Indian market that Iran is best poised to supply?