Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 10

Behind the continued harsh rhetoric yesterday, however, there were signs the Monitorthat Moscow wanted to defuse the crisis. Yakushkin suggested in a radio interview that Russian-U.S. relations were destined on occasion to “hit such snags.” Fortunately, he continued, “today we have a whole set of bilateral mechanisms… for sorting out these conflicts.” Rakhmanin, moreover, made clear that Russia hoped to continue the joint Russian-U.S. space efforts, despite the latest conflict over Iran, saying: “We believe there are good prospects for the development of our cooperation in that sphere, and we intend to go on with our cooperation” (Reuters, Itar-Tass, January 14).

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov–in Washington to lobby for Western financial assistance–offered a stronger statement suggesting a willingness to seek an accommodation with the United States. Following talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Maslyukov said that Russia and the United States had a “full understanding” the Monitorabout the problem of nonproliferation. He also conceded–in sharp contrast to most of Moscow’s official statements–that Moscow’s reactions to U.S. proliferation concerns are “sometimes inadequate, and sometimes not very clever” (Itar-Tass, January 14). Maslyukov heads a government commission on export controls which is supposed to oversee whether Russian regulations are observed.

There were, moreover, some small indications in Moscow yesterday that not everyone thought the Russian government’s furious reaction to the U.S. charges either a wise or a fully justified one. Vladimir Lukin–head of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee and a former ambassador to the United States–for example, suggested that Russia should carefully consider whether all aspects of its cooperation with Iran are important enough to risk U.S. sanctions. Moscow must choose, he said, which is more beneficial for Russia: “to trade with Iran and engage in deliveries of technologies that some in the West… see as ‘sensitive,’ or to develop technological cooperation with the West” (Itar-Tass, January 14).

Aleksei Yablokov, a well-known Russian environmentalist and a former adviser to Yeltsin, was more direct. He said that the United States has good reason to suspect certain Russian organizations of cooperating with Iran in the transfer of sensitive military technologies. He also pointed to several known instances when Russian defense industrial concerns had been involved in the delivery of military components to Iran. It cannot be ruled out, Yablokov said, that the United States may have uncovered something unknown to the Russian government (Russian agencies, January 14).

The stakes for Moscow are not inconsequential. Russian relations with Washington condition, in part, its efforts to secure aid from the IMF. And while the sanctions leveled against the three institutions for their alleged cooperation with Iran are mainly symbolic, any curtailment of Russian-U.S. space cooperation would not be. A spokesman for Russia’s Khrunichev Space Center was quoted this week as saying that curtailment of Russian launches of U.S. satellites could cost Moscow some US$270 million in 1999 alone (Reuters, January 14).