Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 228

Countervailing tendencies and continuing tensions in Russian-U.S. relations were reflected similarly in yesterday’s talks between Ivanov and Albright. On the positive side, Ivanov reportedly offered assurances that Russia’s parliament would ratify the START II strategic arms reduction treaty by the end of December. Albright, who accepted an invitation to visit Moscow next month, expressed her hope that ratification might open the door for the two sides to launch talks on a follow-up START III accord which would reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two countries still further.

But signs of dissonance between the two were equally evident. Ivanov reportedly emphasized Moscow’s continuing opposition to proposals aimed at broadening NATO’s mandate to include missions outside member state territory. He also restated Moscow’s insistence that any proposed NATO military actions in such instances must first be approved by the UN Security Council. His remarks came a day after Albright called for NATO to broaden its role by undertaking to fight global threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. NATO is currently debating a new post-Cold War “strategic concept.” Many alliance members are uncomfortable with Washington’s calls both for an enhanced role for NATO and for a flexibility which could allow the alliance to act without UN Security Council approval. Moscow’s undoubtedly hopes to exploit these differences within the alliance.

Albright and Ivanov also spent time discussing what has now become a staple of Russian-U.S. talks: Washington’s concerns over Moscow’s cooperation with Iran in the fields of missile development, nuclear energy and, more recently, biological warfare research. Albright reportedly warned yesterday that Moscow could lose millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Russian scientists if Russian authorities fail to curb such cooperation with Tehran. The issue will reportedly top the agenda of talks between Russian and U.S. delegations in Moscow this week. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Russia yesterday at the head of a U.S. delegation that also includes Treasury Undersecretary Lawrence Summers (Reuters, Russian agencies, December 9).

As it has in the past, however, Moscow answered the U.S. warnings with a reiteration of its intention to follow through on nuclear dealings with Iran. Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov criticized Washington for trying to halt Russia’s US$800 million deal to build a nuclear reactor at the Bushehr site in Iran. He called Washington’s policies in this area biased and overly politicized. He also repeated Moscow’s claim that the reactor deal is purely commercial, saying that it will not advance any possible Iranian ambitions to develop nuclear weapons (AP, Russian agencies, December 9).

During a visit by Adamov to Iran last month the two sides signed a new nuclear energy accord which calls for Moscow to speed up its construction work at Bushehr. Perhaps of greater import, the memorandum of understanding also created a joint Russian-Iranian committee tasked with studying the feasibility of additional nuclear projects for Russia in Iran, including the construction of other reactors at the Bushehr site (see the Monitor, November 25). Washington, having been frustrated in its efforts to stop the current Russian project in Iran, had urged Moscow at least to forego any additional nuclear deals with Tehran.

During his remarks to reporters yesterday, Adamov spoke enthusiastically of Russian nuclear projects in China and India as well. The Russian energy minister said that Moscow and New Delhi could reach a final decision on the construction of a nuclear plant at Kudankulam–located in southern India–sometime in the first half of next year. The United States has earlier objected to that project on the grounds that it undermined efforts to isolate India for nuclear tests conducted by New Delhi this past May. Moscow, which has cultivated friendly relations with India, has ignored those warnings. Russia is expected to build two light-water VVER-1000 reactors at the Kudankulam site in India. The deal is estimated at US$2.6 billion (AP, Russian agencies, December 9).