Western leaders appear to have found themselves something resembling a strategy for dealing with Vladimir Putin: hit him with sanctions while providing him with face-saving way of de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately for the West, Putin seems to have other plans:
As nuclear negotiations continue this week in Vienna, Moscow appears poised to openly flaunt the U.S.-led Iran sanctions regime. The move could undermine the Obama administration’s assurances that neither the Crimea crisis nor the recent de-escalation of sanctions would undercut U.S. leverage in its nuclear negotiations with Iran. […]The proposed deal, worth possibly $20 billion, would include Russian purchases of up to 500,000 bpd of Iranian oil—boosting Iranian exports by as much as 50% from levels permitted to Iran under the Geneva interim nuclear agreement—in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. The deal would ease further pressure on Iran’s battered energy sector and at least partially restore Iran’s access to oil customers with Russian help. There is further reason for concern that such a scheme could provide a channel for the transfer of sanctioned nuclear equipment or military hardware to Iran, not to mention other illicit financial transactions.
Combined with the announcement by Transnistrian separatists that they will not be attending the next round of talks with Moldova and the latest unrest in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Lugansk (all of which provide more excuses for Putin to send his forces into Ukraine), a negotiated solution with Russia looks increasingly like a pipe dream. On the contrary, Putin is aiming to cause problems for the United States across the board.Maybe it’s time to come up with a real Russia policy.