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Issue: №8 (23)

Iran’s nuclear program has been extensively debated over the past few decades and has incited so much controversy among several nations. However, there are hardly any countries like the United States and Russia whose bilateral agenda consistently featured this matter. This paper is not in any degree diminishing the contribution of other actors to resolving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program but aimed at highlighting the role that the two countries played in this process. The timeline of this research stretches from 1992, when Russia and Iran signed a memorandum on cooperation in the nuclear field, to 2020, when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concluded by the P5+1 and Iran in 2015 is at risk of collapse.

It is divided into five stages based on the development of Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. and Russian approaches to dealing with Iran, and the pattern of the interface between the two countries. At each stage, it discusses the results of U.S. and Russian policies on this issue as well as the lessons that the leadership of the countries could learn from this experience and consider when formulating their strategies on the Iranian nuclear program and issues alike.

     Key findings:

  • The general perception of Iran and different threat perceptions heavily influenced the U.S. and Russian attitudes towards Iran’s nuclear program.

  • The U.S. insisted rigid limits on Iran’s nuclear program and interpreted any uncertainty with respect to and lack of transparency of the Iranian nuclear program as part of the alleged nuclear weapons program.

  • Russia would not accept a nuclear-armed Iran either, but Moscow championed Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy since Teheran complied with the NPT, and Russia believed the U.S. politicized the issue of the Iranian nuclear program to put pressure on Iran.

  • Moscow did not consider abandoning its cooperation with Iran in past, even if compensated for that. The reason for that was a lack of confidence in American conduct and promises to compensate for losses.

  • When harsh sanctions are imposed for policies that the other side cannot change, e.g. for strong domestic political reasons, one should not expect to build a partnership on this ground even if they inform the sanctioned country of their own intentions and motivation to act so.

  • Developments regarding the Iranian nuclear program and the revelations of the undeclared nuclear activities did not change the overall Russian strategy on Iran; however, they exposed the red lines for and limitations to such policy.

  • Demanding everything from a counterpart is counterproductive for the Russian-U.S. dialogue on Iran’s nuclear program. Instead, one should set feasible goals, focus on the main ones, and be ready to invest time and effort to achieve them.

  • Productive Russian-U.S. dialogue on Iran’s nuclear program should include a dialogue without preconditions and threats, interested parties and carefully exchange information, low pressure, technical cooperation for verification, step-by-step and reciprocal basis, consistency and predictability.



Security Index Occasional Paper Series presents reports, analytical articles, comments and interviews that reflect the positions of Russian and foreign experts on the current challenges of global security and Russian policy in this sphere. The newsletter aims at providing clear analysis of global security problems and suggesting practical solutions. Security Index Occasional Paper Series continues the Security Index journal published by PIR Center in 1994 – 2016. Authors and editors will be glad to receive comments, questions and suggestions on our e-mail address [email protected]