Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 171

Republican criticism of the Clinton administration translated earlier this week into approval by the House of legislation requiring the president to take punitive action against any country, foreign company or individual guilty of helping Iran develop weapons of mass destruction or the missiles to carry them. The bill–which was clearly aimed at Russia and must still be approved by the Senate and the president–won bipartisan support and was passed unanimously. It would require the president to inform Congress every six months whether any foreign entities had engaged in such transactions with Iran. If so, the president would have to impose sanctions on–or suspend military aid to–the offending entity. The administration opposed the measure on the grounds that it would create difficult diplomatic problems and might discourage foreign countries from cooperating with the United States on nuclear proliferation agreements. The measure would apparently endanger some US$590 million that the United States is to pay Russia for its participation in the international space station program (Reuters, September 14, 16; AP, September 16).

Not surprisingly, Moscow denounced the House bill and suggested that it could end Russian-U.S. cooperation in the military and arms control areas. In a statement issued yesterday by the Foreign Ministry, the Russian government warned that enactment of the legislation would compel Moscow “to reassess the entire situation concerning Russian-American cooperation on nonproliferation issues, as well as on a range of other military-political issues… at the core of our efforts to ensure a strategic balance and international stability.” The statement charged further that the House bill was “openly anti-Russian” and an attempt to “escalate anti-Russian sanctions under a pretext of Russian technology leaks to Iran.” It said that the Kremlin had, in fact, taken “serious steps” to tighten export controls and had opened up a “constructive dialogue” with recently elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the matter (AFP, Reuters, Russian agencies, September 16).