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Mr. Ryabkov added: “We wouldn’t like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes, taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington.” Let me also translate this: He’s saying: “That’s a nice little dry-cleaning business you have there, Mr. Obama. It would be a shame if something should happen to it.”

For some months, Mr. Putin has been vaguely threatening to conclude a sanctions-busting deal with Iran — billions of dollars in Iranian oil in exchange for missiles and additional nuclear facilities. Russia also has been toying with the idea of selling Iran its effective S-300 anti-aircraft batteries. That would leave the Israelis with a stark choice: Strike Iran before the system is operative or risk losing whatever capability they now have to deploy airpower to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.

I fear this may not end well. Did I mention that?

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.