Will Russia disrupt Iran nuclear talks?

Notwithstanding earlier fears that Russia could act as a “spoiler” in nuclear talks with Iran — particularly as its relations with the United States and most European governments continue to deteriorate — Moscow may actually be less able to use such leverage as a deal looks increasingly possible.

Russia’s ability to disrupt the talks, as well as its broader relationship with Iran, has been a key US concern for quite some time. In the past, I have myself argued that growing Russian support for Iran could be a dangerous consequence of a hostile US-Russia relationship. Nevertheless, the potential costs to Moscow in disrupting the negotiating process will likely increase significantly as an agreement looks more and more probable.

Of course, any effort to wreck the process at this point would represent a dramatic escalation in Moscow’s ongoing confrontation with Washington and its European allies, especially at a time of (relative) calm in Ukraine. Still, if heavy fighting resumes and the United States elects to provide lethal arms to the Kiev government, the current standoff could spiral beyond either side’s control. The time remaining before the summer deadline for a final Iran deal is more than sufficient for this.

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This article was written by Paul J. Saunders for Al-monitor on March 30, 2015. Paul J. Saunders is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Russia Mideast Pulse and the executive director of the Center for the National Interest. He was a State Department senior adviser during the George W. Bush administration.