Why Russia Does Not Fear an Iranian Bomb

(But Israel Does)

When President George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, Slovakia, this past February, the first item on the White House’s laundry list of discussion points for the summit was nuclear programs, including Russian aid to Iran’s nuclear-power effort.  After the meeting, Putin told reporters that the issue of nuclear proliferation was a key topic for discussion and stated that Russia understood American concerns: “We share a common opinion in this regard and a common approach,” Putin said.  President Bush seemed outwardly satisfied with Putin’s assurances, saying that “We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon.  I appreciate Vladimir’s understanding on that.”

At issue was Moscow’s fulfillment of a contract with Tehran to develop the Bushehr nuclear-power station, which Washington and Tel Aviv have contended is part of a civilian nuclear energy cover for developing nuclear weapons—something that both the United States and Israel see as unacceptable, to the extent that they have dropped hints about a military strike to prevent Tehran’s acquisition of an “Islamic bomb.”  Putin’s assurances, however, were meant to set the stage for a further agreement between Russia and Iran on nuclear cooperation, something intended to forestall an American-Israeli attack on Iran.  Indeed, Russian Defense Minister...

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