Russia may back tougher, US-sponsored Iran sanctions, but it still expects to finish building the Bushehr nuclear power plant and selling Iran advanced weapons systems.
Russia may be lining up to support a US-sponsored resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Iran in the United Nations Security Council, but that does not seem likely to interfere with key deals between Iran and Russia. Russian contractors will likely complete construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, it was announced this week, and Russia may continue to sell sophisticated arms to the Islamic Republic.
Moscow's willingness to back the new sanctions, which include a partial arms embargo and financial strictures, represents a significant evolution of Russian policy from its previous rejection of such strong measures.
But there are limits. President Dmitry Medvedev's wish to move toward a more pro-Western orbit, outlined in a leaked foreign policy review last week has already run up against resistance from vested interests in Russia's military-industrial establishment, experts say.
IN PICTURES: Nuclear power around the world
"Relations with the US have become more important than relations with Iran. Medvedev has changed the priorities, and you do see the results" says Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. "But that doesn't mean Russia's preparing to abandon Iran. Medvedev cannot go against important Russian lobbies, who have vested interests that can't be ignored."
Sanctions will not stop anti-aircraft systems from reaching Iran
On Friday Mikhail Margelov, the head of the foreign affairs commission of the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, insisted that any sanctions resolution will not prevent Russia from honoring an oft-delayed contract to deliver advanced, long-range S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Iran.
"The draft [sanctions resolution] will not hit current contracts between Russia and Iran," the independent Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. "It should be remembered that Russia is a responsible seller of its products on foreign markets and we are not interested in the militarization of the Middle East."
The $1 billion Bushehr plant on the Persian Gulf, which has also been the subject of repeated delays, will be completed and put into operation within three months, the head of the state-run atomic power agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists on Thursday.
"We expect the nuclear power plant will be launched by August if everything goes according to plan," Mr. …