Report: US asked Russia to deliver ultimatum to Iran
A leading Russian newspaper reported today that US Secretary of State Clinton requested that Russia tell Iran upcoming talks are the 'last chance' before it pursues a military option.
(Page 2 of 3)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov did not confirm the story, but was quoted in Kommersant, adding pointedly that talking in ultimatums is an unproductive way to conduct diplomacy.
"Speaking in this way is unprofessional," Mr. Ryabkov told the paper. "There is no such thing as a last chance. It’s an issue of political will, and Russia does everything to foster such will ... those tempted to use military force should restrain themselves and search for a diplomatic solution. A war will not solve any problems, but will create a million new ones."
Preparing for 'inevitable' war
Russian analysts say the story sounds authentic, and add that Moscow will probably be happy to deliver that message to Iran, along with some thoughts of its own.
"Our diplomats will have more to say about this to the Iranians," says Dmitry Suslov, an expert with the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, a leading Moscow think tank. "Russia is not interested in war. It's interested in maintaining the current unstable situation, which keeps global oil prices high. But it wouldn't want to see Iran weakened by a US or Israeli military strike, because that would lead to a lot of unpredictable consequences."
Russia has increasingly come to the opinion that war is inevitable, and is taking steps to prepare for fallout from such a conflict, which could include waves of refugees, instability, and growing radicalism in former Soviet Central Asia and Russia's own restive northern Caucasus region.
Mr. Suslov says that Russia's Defense Ministry created a special task force to deal with potential fallout of a new Middle East war in February. Earlier, the Kremlin announced that this summer's Kavkaz military exercises in Russia's south will be devoted to handling a theoretical war in Iran, whose effects could spill over into former Soviet territory.
"Iran is not very far from Russian territory – we share the Caspian Sea – and no one knows what might be the impact on Iranian nuclear facilities in the event of a strike," says Alexander Golts, military columnist with the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal. "Refugees could penetrate into Azerbaijan, and if they come in large numbers they could reach Russia. The whole region might be destabilized."
Russian analysts appear divided over whether the US signal is part of a pattern of theatrical moves in the runup to a war that's already been decided upon, or if the US seriously hopes that diplomatic action can find a peaceful solution.