US, Russia announce breakthrough on new Iran resolution
The move shows a willingness to act on common goals despite deteriorating relations.
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
Concerns about deteriorating US-Russia relations are apparently behind the two powers' surprise agreement Friday to seek a fourth Security Council resolution on Iran – a prospect that seemed all but dead only hours earlier.Skip to next paragraph
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The United States and Russia had been sniping at each for weeks following Russia's August invasion of Georgia. The sour tone continued this week as world leaders gathered in New York for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
But indications that other international players – including Iran and North Korea – were responding to the two powers' spat with unwelcome turns of their own appear to have refocused Washington and Moscow on common interests.
It was not clear midday Friday when the new resolution, reported by European diplomats, might be submitted for a vote. But the new resolution is not expected to include any new sanctions – something Russia has said it is reluctant to accept. Rather, it would simply be a restatement of the Security Council's determination to see Iran comply with the council's demands to cease uranium enrichment.
As such, the resolution would be an effort by the Security Council, and the US and Russia in particular, that their differences are not undermining work on other issues.
Yet even if the two powers have decided its in neither one's interest to see all cooperation stop, Russia's actions underscore its feelings that the Bush administration has not shown it any respect, that America's problems are largely of its own doing, and that it is in no hurry to do anything to come to its assistance.
"The Russians are saying, 'You are the outgoing administration; we have no inclination to do you any favors,' " says Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor of national-security decisionmaking at the US Naval War College in Newport, R.I. "Their actions in New York have been a big diplomatic raspberry to the Bush administration."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did meet in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday and agreed on a pragmatic approach to relations, which they said should allow diplomatic efforts on other pressing issues – including North Korea and Iran – to proceed.
But the "polite" exchange between the two top diplomats – only days after Dr. Rice gave a speech offering a grave prognosis for Russia's international standing if it maintains its posture on Georgia – was unable to provide much reassurance that strained relations between the two will mend soon.
That is especially true after the spectacle of a tit-for-tat round of meeting cancellations. The US first called off a planned meeting of G-8 agriculture ministers intended to take up global food security. That meeting would have included Russia. Russia followed by torpedoing a meeting this week that was to have brought together the foreign ministers of the six countries, including the US and Russia, leading the effort to halt Iran's uranium-enrichment program.
The downward trajectory of relations should worry US officials, according to experts in US-Russia relations.
"It's important for the United States to keep its eye on the big strategic issues, because those can be easily set back with even a little sparring going on," says Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, a Russia and Europe specialist at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington. "It's not surprising Iran and North Korea are doing what they are doing at the moment."