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Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes has an important article in Time Magazine that raises questions about the START follow-on treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev earlier this month and casts doubt upon the Obama administration’s efforts to enlist Russian support for serious sanctions against Iran.
Here is what Simes says about Russia’s position on sanctions:
Whether the treaty will really help to get tough sanctions on Iran is another matter entirely, however. There is no mystery of what might make Moscow more cooperative on Iran. Far-reaching sanctions would cost Russia billions. To compensate Russia, Washington would need to facilitate greater economic cooperation, and as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stressed on several occasions, this would require canceling the Jackson-Vanik amendment and helping Russia gain membership in the WTO. However, these moves would face opposition in Congress. The administration has indicated that this would be the right direction to take but has not yet made an effort to make that happen.
Although United Nations Security Council sanctions seem increasingly likely (even the Bush Administration succeeded three times at that), there is a difference between getting a deal and getting results. The new arms control treaty demonstrates that it is easier to produce nice-sounding diplomatic documents than to take major steps toward advancing American security. Iran will be the key test of U.S.-Russian relations and, unfortunately, watered-down sanctions from a divided Security Council are unlikely to move Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Simes’ suggestion that the Obama administration may be exaggerating Russia’s willingness to support serious sanctions on Iran echoes arguments made by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett on this blog. (see here, here, here and here).
— Ben Katcher