Another attempt to make some kind of sense of what's going on east of the Dniester. Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan come in for special attention.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Russia playing both ends against the middle?

I find Stratfor to be pretty much hit-and-miss, not necessarily "predictive" or "insightful", as they like to describe their podcasts. And their announcer's absolutely horrendous mispronunciation of Russian names is enough to drive one mad. A recent podcast, however, set me to thinking.

In it (the March 13th edition,) they suggest that Russia does not intend to ever complete the Busherhr project in Iran. By refusing to do so, they maintain leverage over both Iran and the USA, and play a bigger role on the world stage. The USA will have to play nice, to avoid pushing Russia to continue the technology transfer, as will Iran, if it ever wants the project done.

It certainly sounds possible. Anyone else want to discuss this one? I'm looking at you, Vilhelm.

1 comment:

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Blair,

Thank you for inviting me to comment, and for bringing my attention to the Stratfor article. As I have not read it, I cannot exactly tell what their reasoning is for drawing such conclusions as you depict in your piece.

However, I think your title is quite telling. Russia has a clear tendency towards playing as many ends of the field as possible, in order to finally make a decision that in the end seems most advantageous to the interests that at that point have the most influence. Therefore, how Moscow conclusively acts might be very difficult to predict.

One perspective seems to be missing from the Stratfor argument, as you have depicted it, namely the domestic concerns. To allude to Jim Rosenau, Russia plays along the "domestic-foreign" frontier, which makes analysis quite complex.

I wrote on the specific issue of Russia and the Iranian nuclear programme somewhat over a year ago.

My conclusion then was that Russia has too great an interest in the profits of nuclear cooperation with Iran, to seriously consider pulling out from it. Iran simply offers much desired revenue to the Russian nuclear sector, and Moscow is thus hesitant to put any longer moratorium on cooperation.

Here, Russia's policy is a constant cost-benefit analysis, balancing between politics and economics, and the economic side of the matter has for long had the upper hand. Thus, as I then concluded, "In Moscow, money talks and politics comply."

Still, as I have not followed the issue closely for over a year, I do not know if such a conclusion is still valid.

However, and this I want to underline, the sort of monolithic foreign policy analysis, as appears to be the case here, fails to account for an equally or more important domestic Russian perspective.



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