Still, several developments over the past week underscored how Putin’s foreign policy shift has not meant a complete reorientation westward–far from it. On the same day that President George W. Bush was denouncing Iranian “arms shipments and support for terror” for fuelling the Middle East conflict, his Russian counterpart was warmly welcoming Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Moscow. Russia’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, reiterated that the program to help build Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor, which Washington fears will help Tehran build a nuclear weapon, would continue, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dismissed as unproven the U.S. charges that Russian entities have leaked ballistic missile technologies to the Iranians. Ivanov also restated his government’s disapproval of Bush’s designation earlier this year of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil.”
On top of all this, a row broke out between Moscow and Washington after the latter froze millions of dollars in funding for Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) projects, citing in the U.S. State Department’s words, “serious concerns about Russian chemical and biological weapons activities.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “deeply bewildered” by the U.S. decision, insisting that Russia “adheres very strictly” to the treaties banning chemical and biological weapons.