Recent developments in Crimea, which have resulted in the de-facto annexation of the territory to the Kremlin, has diverted attention away from the nuclear talks that ended in Vienna this week. But several perceptive news outlets noted that far from being unrelated, the Ukrainian crisis and the ongoing negotiations with Iran are intimately linked by a powerful common denominator – Russia, which is both party to the P5+1 talks with Iran and a regional player causing growing panic in the West over its actions.
Western nuclear negotiators, particularly American, have been vigorous in their pursuit of what they see as an historic breakthrough with Iran, a country which has kept its diplomatic distance for some 30-odd years.
But for Russia, as recent events have shown, the stakes are just not high enough. Just this week, Moscow announced that it would not hesitate to use the nuclear talks as leverage in pursuing its Ukraine policy, saying that part of their retaliatory tools may include linkage between Ukraine and Iran, and an alteration of their position regarding Iran. Experts believed that could include barter deals with Iran, undercutting the pressure exerted on Iran by western sanctions, according to The New York Times.
CS Monitor’s Nicholas Cunningham made a similar assessment, writing that talks in Vienna were made “awkward” by the confusion over whether or not Russia and the other Western parties were actually on the same side, making the P5+1’s displays of unity crumble. On Bloomberg, former American Iran negotiator Robert Einhorn said Russia might undermine Western sanctions, while The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss suggested Iran might start taking cues – and defense systems – from Russia as other Western powers lose influence and importance in the region (and, by extension, lose stature in their dealings with Iran).
The Daily Beast, for its part, turned the spotlight on Obama rather than on a potentially uncooperative Russia, accusing him of “gambling” the Iran talks to punish Putin. Above the report was a photo illustration, obviously meant to evoke the Cold War era, of an unsmiling Obama and Putin with a large yellow nuclear sign in the background – a dramatic, if fitting visualization of the growing chinks in the P5+1’s Iran armor.