Quarta-feira, 28 de Julho de 2010

EU foreign policy: More harm than good

By Vasco Martins

 

The European Union approved a fresh new wave of sanctions targeting Iran’s foreign trade, banking and energy sectors. Russia has already reacted to the unilateral row of sanctions, considering them not only to undermine joint efforts to seek a political and diplomatic solution to the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, but also to show disdain for the co-ordinated provisions of the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member.

Russia has frequently shown uneasiness in imposing sanctions on Iran. Although it approved the last UN resolution, in part due to unprecedented rapprochement with the US, Russia has always been trying to minimize the impact on its relations with the Islamic Republic.

Russia, lost in its own Eurasian/Western orientation, shares several interests with Iran. Firstly, both Russia and Iran see Turkey’s aspirations in the wider Middle East and Europe with caution and contempt; both understand the presence of US military bases on Central Asia as a threat to their national security; and both realize that China, although cooperative, is a force to be reckoned with in the coming future. Secondly, regarding military cooperation, due to the imposition of sanctions Russia has been one of the only countries to sell military equipment, especially aircraft, to Iran, although it halted the delivery of surface-to-air S-300 missiles. Lastly, concerning trade relations, and although substantially small, trade between the two countries accounts for approximately US$3.7 billion, which makes Russia a top trading partner with Iran.

Hence, it is not difficult to understand Russia’s harsh criticism to the unilateral EU imposed sanctions on Iran. Moreover, Russia feels its position was not taken into account in such an important decision. Russia has always felt like a ‘second tier power’ when international decisions are made outside the centers of powers it can control - i.e. the UN Security Council - a factor which has always promoted contempt between the Federation and the western powers.

This unilateral adoption of sanctions targeting Iran is a move that will surely anger Moscow, which will feel alienated and will further support Tehran in response. The incredibly counter-productive imposition of sanctions by the EU will also cast a shadow between Russia-US relations, as the US is an active supporter of sanctions against Iran.

The EU managed to antagonize its most important partner in dealing with Iran. This position only reveals the EU’s desire to quickly achieve concrete results in its foreign policy prism in order to justify the need for such a common action. However, it failed to include Moscow in the equation, which only proves the EU is not ready to become an independent foreign policy actor.

 

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