A senior Russian diplomat signaled a possible shift Wednesday in Russia’s position on the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks amid tensions with the United States and other Western countries, according to The Associated Press.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by the Russian news organisation Interfax as saying the recent sanctions announced by the European Union and U.S. may force Russia to retaliate by altering its stance on the Iran talks. Such a move would dramatically escalate tensions between Russia and the West, which are already high amid Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Tuesday.
“We wouldn’t like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington,” said Ryabkov, who is Russia’s envoy to the ongoing Iran talks.
“But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well. The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue.”
This brings up the possibility of colliding two of the most sensitive geopolitical issues of President Barack Obama’s second term. Thus far, Russia and President Vladimir Putin have cooperated with the West on the Iran talks.
The move would put Obama in a corner. He wants a permanent deal with Iran — so much so he has threatened to veto any congressional bill that could collapse the talks. He also needs Putin and Russia as his ally in the talks, along with a variety of high-profile foreign policy issues like in Syria and Afghanistan. Together, this reduces the U.S.’s overall leverage in slapping any harsh sanctions or other measures on Russia in response to its moves in Ukraine.
On Monday, Obama announced sanctions against seven Russians and four Ukrainians for their roles in the ongoing crisis. He has promised more “costs” if Russia continues to escalate the situation.
“We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world,” Obama said Monday. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.
“Going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or to de-escalate the situation. Now, I believe there’s still a path to resolve this situation diplomatically in a way that addresses the interest of both Russia and Ukraine. That includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases, supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine, and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which has indicated its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward towards elections this spring.”
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