A Russian View on America’s Withdrawal from the Iran Deal

    Andrey Sushentsov

    Security, Middle East

    Dmitry Medvedev, who was nominated as the candidate for the post of Russian Prime Minister, and President Vladimir Putin attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow

    Moscow sees the move as a harbinger of what’s to come: a return to multipolarity.

    Russia is acting deeply disappointed in public. In response to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement blaming the United States for “intractable” actions based on “narrow and opportunistic interests.” The Kremlin expressed “deep concern” over the American decision and stressed the necessity to sustain the agreement. Last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in chain talks with European leaders discussing ways to save the deal without the United States.

    But Moscow was the least vocal among the dissatisfied—since no Russian vital interests are at stake and some actual benefits emerge. Consider this: after America’s abrupt exit, Iran suddenly looks good. Uncertainty over tensions force oil prices to go up. Europe is more distrustful towards Washington and turmoil among NATO allies—at least tentative—is inevitable. Iran was not benefiting economically from the JCPOA, but in these new circumstances, Europe can disregard American threats of imposing secondary sanctions and do business with Tehran.

    The most important question that remains: can the Trump withdrawal be a pretext for a war or a military strike against Iran? Moscow does not consider this an immediate threat. Trump would hardly risk starting another war in the Middle East—even if some in his administration see Iran as an easy target. A “Hit and Tweet Strategy” is more possible, but global and regional security implications would arrive after just one euphoric news cycle. Cornering Iran, while pleasing Israel and Saudi Arabia—would not help regional security, but at least war is not imminent. Moscow considers Trump’s decision to be focused on domestic politics, hoping that it resonates with Republicans and makes the president look strong.

    If this analysis is correct, Russia does not need to comment on the American departure from the JCPOA. Moscow would opt for maintaining the deal with Europe and China and let Washington absorb the diplomatic fallout.

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