Ukraine’s Gas Crisis and its Lessons for Iran

Friday, January 2, 2015

Seyed Ahmad Movasseghi
Professor of Political Science; University of Tehran

Just a while ago, the world witnessed a dispute over natural gas between Russia and its western neighbor, Ukraine. As the dispute escalated and the two countries failed to agree on a price for the export of the Russian gas to Ukraine, Moscow cut off its gas exports to Kiev. By doing so, Russia not only put tremendous pressure on Ukraine, but also faced other European countries with a severe energy crisis as gas pressure in some of those countries started to fall, interrupting gas supply to some parts of Europe. The measure taken by Russia stirred serious concerns among European countries and prompted the European Union to hold an emergency meeting. At present, European countries import one-fourth of their needed natural gas from Russia and 90 percent of that gas passes through pipelines that cross the Ukrainian territory. Experts maintain that the measure taken by Russia on the eve of a summit meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) was more of a political nature. By doing this, Russia was in fact trying to redefine its role in international arena and introduce itself as one of the big global powers in a multipolar world. Moscow was also trying to use the leverage of energy and bank on Europe’s severe dependence on the Russian gas to boost its role in other regional and international equations.

Since Russia had shown that it is willing to use gas as a political lever, officials in European states decided to focus more on the dependence of their countries on energy resources that were imported from Russia. In fact, the European countries are gradually losing their trust in Russia. The latest gas measures taken by Russia have not only sent powerful signals to Europe, but have also sent important messages to Iran which should be taken into consideration. Russia recently came up with a new proposal as to Iran's nuclear case by suggesting that the Islamic Republic can transfer its uranium enrichment activities to Russia. The proposal elicited various reactions both in Iran and elsewhere in the world. Most domestic experts in Iran indicated their opposition to the proposal. They argued that Russia has not offered any well-defined plan for this purpose and the issue has been simply raised as a suggestion whose text does not exceed a single page and, therefore, cannot be acceptable to Iran. On the contrary, there have been both foreign and domestic experts who are of the opinion that accepting Russia’s proposal by Iran could be a sign of transparency in Iran's nuclear activities. They also argue that such a proposal would not only confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities, but also provide a way out of the existing standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issue. Moscow’s proposal to Tehran, however, can be viewed from various angles.

1. In addition to hefty economic profits that this proposal would entail for Russians, it would pose a serious challenge to Iran's national security. This is true because Iran would practically have to rely on Russia for doing something which can be easily done on its own soil. On the other hand, there are no guarantees to ensure that what happened to Ukraine with respect to Russia’s natural gas would not happen to Iran with regard to its nuclear program.

2. A review of how Russians have so far performed with respect to Iran's nuclear case would reveal that they have always tried to extort concessions from both Iranian and Western sides in line with their own interests. This is why they have never remained fully committed to their obligations and have been trying to get more concessions from the opposite side by postponing realization of their obligations.

3. Even if Iran would agree to have its uranium enriched on the Russian soil, of course, in cooperation with the Iranian scientists, Russians, as the poorest member state of the G8 group would not have cutting-edge technology to do this. The Russian technology is usually obsolete, expensive, nonstandard and incomparable to its Western counterpart in terms of security.

4. In fact, Russia’s plan has been formulated in order to meet the needs of European countries and the United States in the first place. By proposing transfer of Iran's nuclear enrichment activities to Russia, Moscow is practically trying to deprive Iran of enrichment on its soil and, therefore, the main demand of the Islamic Republic in this regard has been ignored. This is exactly why Russia’s plan has been warmly welcomed by the United States and European countries.

5. Past record of Russia with regard to Iran's nuclear power plant in Bushehr shows that Russia either lacks the ability to complete the power plant, or a more powerful will has practically barred Moscow from going on with the construction of the nuclear power plant for Iran. In fact, the recent proposal by Russia is another instance of dealings that Russia wants to have with both Iran and the West. On the one hand, Russians want to maintain Iran's market while, on the other hand, they are trying to curry favor with the West and emerge as saviors when the West is facing such problems.

Key Words: Ukraine’s Gas Crisis, Lessons for Iran, Russia,Group of Eight (G8), Uranium Enrichment, Nuclear Program, United States, European Countries, Movasseghi

Source: Arman Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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