THE RUSSIAN REVIVAL.
President Mohammad Khatami is expected to visit Russia
during the first half of 2001, unidentified diplomatic sources
in Moscow told Interfax on 25 November, in order to give "new
impetus to bilateral cooperation in different spheres." This
cooperation could be in at least three areas: conventional arms,
nuclear power, or regional security.
The United States is very concerned about such
developments. "We have made clear to the Russian government that
there will be consequences if Moscow withdrew from such
commitment and that certain kinds of arm sales could lead to
sanctions," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on
28 November. Just one day earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister
Ilya Klebanov had told Interfax, "We are ready to supply Iran
with everything that does not contradict our country's
international obligations." And on 23-24 November, Russian media
outlets had reported that Moscow was withdrawing from the 1995
Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement and would renew arms sales to Iran.
The reason for this move, Interfax reported, was because aspects
of the agreement were no longer confidential, having been
discussed in the "New York Times" and "Washington Times."
Russian sources claim that they had lost the opportunity to
sell military goods to Tehran, such as fixed-wing and rotary-
wing aircraft, submarines, and S-300 and hand held missiles. The
Russians also claim that they had forsaken licensing agreements
to build tanks and armored personnel carriers, as well as the
opportunity to build submarine pens and missile complexes. Among
those advocating resumption of military cooperation are Russia's
chief of the armed forces general staff, General Anatoliy
Kvashnin, Duma defense committee chief Andrei Nikolayev, and
Tehran sees the end of the agreement as a positive
development. "Mosocw's no to the secret agreement of 1995 is to
be termed as a major victory for Iran," state radio reported on
24 November. Israel is unlikely to agree. According to a report
in the 24 November "Yediot Aharanot," shoulder-launched Igla
missiles have been shipped to Iran. If they end up in Hizballah
hands, the missiles could be used against Israeli aircraft.
A second subject of mutual interest to Iran and Russia is
nuclear power. Russian Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman Andrei
Edemskii said in the 30 November edition of Moscow's "Vedomosti"
that Russia has been awarded a contract - worth about $1
billion - to build the second unit of the nuclear reactor in
Bushehr. Two days earlier, however, Duma deputy Kurban-Ali
Amirov, who had visited Iran, said the Iranians are unhappy that
construction of the first unit has dragged on for ten years. His
Iranian hosts pointed out that Western firms provide much more
specific deadlines, Interfax reported. (Apparently they forgot
to say that Western firms are reluctant to build a nuclear
reactor for the Iranians.)
And a third area of cooperation is regional security. State
Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitri Rogozin
said on 30 November that Russia, India, and Iran are likely to
work out a single position on the Taliban, according to RFE/RL
Newsline. Also, Iran has again expressed an interest in
purchasing a Russian border security system, ITAR-TASS reported
on 29 November. Initially, a 40 kilometer section of the border
with Afghanistan would be covered. This idea dates from at least
January 2000, when deputy speaker of parliament Hassan Rohani
visited Moscow to discuss construction of an "iron curtain"
along the Iran-Afghanistan border. (Bill Samii)
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.