Feature

Putin’s Iranian leverage

“The next phase of the Ukraine crisis may not take place in Ukraine, but Iran.”

Walter Russell MeadThe-American-Interest.com

“The next phase of the Ukraine crisis may not take place in Ukraine, but Iran,” said Walter Russell Mead. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s delegate to the West’s talks with Iran, was quoted as saying last week that if the U.S. and Europe keep raising the stakes for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, “we will take retaliatory measures as well.” He specifically named the talks as a weapon in Russia’s tit-for-tat arsenal. Uh-oh. Until recently, Russia may have preferred to keep Iran from getting a destabilizing nuclear weapon, but now that Vladimir Putin’s power struggle with President Obama has become personal, his agenda could easily change. If Putin wrecks the talks, it would put Obama into “the horrible, no-win situation he has spent his whole presidency working to avoid”—either accepting Iran as a nuclear power, or launching a high-stakes war to disarm the mullahs. Forcing Obama into a corner would be “an immensely satisfying foreign policy coup” for Putin, who delights in proving that the West’s rhetoric is hollow. So beware: “If Russia can derail the Iran talks, it will be sorely tempted to try.”

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