The chess moves have come early and often in the opening weeks of America and Russia’s “reset” relationship, to quote a phrase much recycled by the media after Joseph Biden’s speech in Munich. But what to make of all this conciliatory pawn swapping and mixed messages?
Today, for example, comes news that Russia has decided to freeze an $800 million deal with Iran that would have sent state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. (The S-300 can track 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12, and if secured by Iran could complicate Israeli or US strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.) Is this a diplomatic gesture for the Americans, suggesting Russia is willing to use its Iran policy as a bargaining chip for other contentious issues, such as the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe? Maybe so. One report today has Russian officials borrowing from Biden’s parlance, using the word “reboot” to describe its goals for a new Europe Atlantic security apparatus – one that doesn’t include any pesky missile shields close to Russian borders.
“There is a need to reboot the Euro-Atlantic security architecture,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Groushko told a special session of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s 56-nation Permanent Council.
“We invite all states to come to the negotiating table and work on new rules. We see this as a ‘Helsinki (Treaty) plus’, where we would discuss new inter-state relations in a legally binding manner.”
We’ll see what happens after the slighted Iranian Defense Minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, returns home from Moscow. Remember, Gazprom has been working to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field for over a decade, and last year signed a “memorandum of mutual understanding” with the National Iranian Oil Company.