Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 144

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday reiterated Moscow’s concerns over the recent nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan. With equal emphasis, however, he restated Russia’s opposition to the leveling of international sanctions against either New Delhi or Islamabad. Speaking to reporters in Manila during a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Primakov said that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests “worsen the international situation as a whole” and “pose a danger of nuclear arms proliferation comparable to the Cold War in its nature.” He also suggested that the Indian and Pakistani tests could be destabilizing insofar as they have led some U.S. congressmen to call for deployment of a national antiballistic missile system. That would mean the “end of the Russian-U.S. ABM Treaty,” Primakov said, “and if this happens no one will reduce strategic nuclear weapons.”

Despite the dangers posed by the nuclear testing, however, Primakov said that Moscow remains opposed to sanctions because they “hit mainly the population instead of those making” the political decisions. He also described sanctions as being often “counterproductive” and said that “no country should be turned into an outcast.” News reports suggested yesterday that Primakov might meet sometime today with India’s foreign minister in order to discuss nuclear nonproliferation issues. (Russian agencies, July 27)

Moscow has described its stand on the sanctions issue as principled. That position, however, also seems based, at least in part, on Russia’s desire to maintain friendly relations with India–one of Moscow’s key Asian allies and a major purchaser of Russian military hardware. Russia has not only opposed sanctions, moreover, but has also made clear its intention to follow through on several major arms deals with India. Of perhaps greater import, Moscow signed a preliminary agreement in June that calls for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in southern India. That agreement was harshly criticized by the United States. Washington charged that it violated international efforts to punish India for its nuclear tests. (See the Monitor, June 23)