Why Russia is planning Iran war games
Russia has reportedly ordered the military to plan war games to deal with potential spillover from a US-Iran conflict.
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Doesn't want nuclear weapons in Iran, but doesn't want war
Russian experts say that Moscow opposes Iran's alleged drive for atomic weapons, but may fear the consequences of a military strike aimed at curbing the country's nuclear program more.Skip to next paragraph
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"War in Iran could create a new situation in the wider Caucasus and the Caspian Basin, which would a very serious challenge to Russia," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow-based foreign policy journal. "There is a high degree of uncertainty about what would happen in neighboring regions. How would it affect the situation around Nagorno Karabakh, for instance?"
Armenia and Azerbaijan (see map here) fought a savage war in the 1990s over the tiny Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, which ended with Armenia annexing the territory and some surrounding regions. Azerbaijan has never accepted that outcome, but its desire for revenge has been checked by intensive international diplomacy.
"The situation around Karabakh is stable now, but the status quo could be destroyed by an external shock, such as war in next-door Iran," says Mr. Lukyanov. "For Russia, this would pose an impossible dilemma. That's why upcoming military exercises will be designed to address various possible outcomes and find ways to deal with them. . . Russia is absolutely not interested in war breaking out."
Secret benefits for Russia
But, he adds, Russia might also "secretly benefit" from any US attack on Iran as long as it didn't produce pro-Western regime change in that country. Prices for oil, Russia's main source of foreign exchange, would skyrocket, at least in the short term.
"The most likely outcome is that the US would become bogged down in another complicated, long-term conflict," Lukyanov says. "That means US attention would be less directed than ever on the post-Soviet region, and that would be good for Moscow."
The Russo-Georgian August 2008 war came just days after the Russian military completed its Kavkaz 2008 war games in the north Caucasus, a conflict that ended with Russia declaring South Ossetia and Abkhazia fully independent from Georgia. Tensions between Russia and NATO-friendly Georgia continue to this day, and might also be deeply complicated by any conflict that breaks out between the US and nearby Iran.
Mr. Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister, when asked to clarify his earlier comment that war against Iran would create a threat to Russia's national security, told journalists Tuesday that "any ratcheting up of tensions on Iran can bring nothing useful, it would lead to a catastrophe in the region.... Russia is doing everything it can from the point of view of diplomacy to resolve the conflict," he added.
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