Russia 'schizophrenic' on Iran: US defense chief

17th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia appears to have a "schizophrenic" approach to Iran, viewing Tehran as a security threat while pursuing commercial deals with the country, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday.

Gates told senators Russia has for years seen Iran as a worrisome regional power.

When he met with then-president Vladimir Putin three years ago in Moscow, the Russian leader "told me that he considered Iran Russia's greatest national security threat," Gates said.

"And yet they have these commercial interests in Iran that go back more than 20 years," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Asked by a senator about the apparent contradiction, Gates said "you've just put your finger on a kind of a schizophrenic Russian approach to this."

Russia's policies reflected "this balancing," said Gates, a former CIA director who analyzed the former Soviet Union at the spy agency.

"They recognize the security threat that Iran presents, but then there are these commercial opportunities, which, frankly, are not unique to them in Europe," said Gates, referring to European business ties to Iran.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits Washington for a summit next week with President Barack Obama, with Tehran's nuclear work expected to be high on the agenda.

After months of US-led diplomacy, Russia this month backed a new UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

But Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Thursday that Moscow was disappointed by additional US and EU unilateral measures against Iran, warning the moves could affect cooperation in the nuclear crisis.

At the same senate hearing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said negotiations on a new nuclear arms control treaty helped build a dialogue with Moscow on how to handle Iran, and that the Russians "share our concerns now about a nuclear-armed Iran."

She said "it took a while to make the case to the Russians that Iran indeed was pursuing not just a peaceful civil nuclear capacity but, in our view, poised to pursue nuclear weapons."

Moscow said last week that work had started to bring Russian domestic legislation in line with requirements of the UN resolution, promising to strictly adhere to the sanctions and halt a controversial sale of its S-300 missiles to Iran.

At the hearing, Clinton confirmed that Russian plans to sell the S-300 missiles to Iran had been postponed.

© 2010 AFP

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