Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 41

Official Moscow has reacted with anger in recent days over a decision made by the U.S. last week to implement sanctions against Russian institutes accused of improper dealings with Iran. The U.S. sanctions involve ten Russian institutes of various types, each accused by Washington of contributing to Iranian missile and nuclear development programs. Three of those institutes were first named by the Clinton administration in January of this year (see the Monitor, January 13). The other seven were singled out for punishment last July. The sanctions forbid the ten institutes to import from or export to the United States. They also make the ten ineligible for U.S. aid or procurement contracts. According to one Russian source, the U.S. decision to implement sanctions grew out of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s visit to Moscow last week, during which arms proliferation issues were discussed (Izvestia, February 26).

On the whole, reactions out of Moscow were sharply negative. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 25 criticizing Washington for talking to Moscow “in the language of sanctions and pressure.” It also said that the ministry “categorically opposed” the U.S. sanctions, and characterized them as an “obvious attempt to extend U.S. legislation to foreign countries” (UPI, February 25). Moscow, like some of Washington’s Western allies, has long complained of U.S. attempts to penalize third countries for their dealings with countries Washington deems to be rogue states. Russia and the United States have also clashed in recent weeks over a proposed sale of advanced Russian antitank missiles to Syria (see the Monitor, February 3).

The Russian Foreign Ministry was not alone in speaking out against the latest U.S. move. Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who frequently dealt with U.S. complaints in this area while he was premier, called the U.S. decision to pursue the sanctions “far-fetched and stupid.” He said that Washington has consistently failed to produce evidence justifying its sanctions decisions when asked by Moscow to do so. Russian Education Minister Vladimir Filippov took another tack, one which–in one form or another–Moscow has frequently voiced. He charged that the U.S. sanctions were in fact part of a Washington effort to keep advanced Russian technologies off the international market (Russian agencies, February 25).

Meanwhile, a member of the government commission charged with overseeing Russian export controls suggested that the U.S. allegations against the Russian institutes were groundless. He also accused the United States of leaking dual-use technologies–to various countries, including Iran–and urged the Russian government to level sanctions in response to Washington’s.