- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

Despite voting for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Iran to halt its nuclear program, Russia continues to assist the rogue state with the development of a laser isotope separation process that uses laser technology to enrich uranium — and do so more efficiently than with gas centrifuges. That, at least, is the troubling report from a Russian nuclear engineer in the German newspaper Der Spiegel this week. Iran first tried to obtain the technology from Russia in 1999 or 2000, and in a 2003 letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran admitted it had pursued the technology but claimed that it no longer had such a program.

If accurate, the report reveals a disturbing contradiction between Russia’s Security Council vote against the Iranian nuclear program and its secret willingness to aid that country’s nuclear ambitions. What this story also highlights is a more obstinate Russian disregard for the West and for the United States in particular that Mr. Putin has used in recent years to fashion a more assertive foreign policy. As we wrote in July as Russian President Vladimir Putin played host at the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg — and, as host, managed to keep specific criticism of Syria and Iran out of a statement on the Middle East crisis — Russia was moving in the direction of the odd man out in the club of industrialized democracies. The United States benefits from the best relationship possible with Mr. Putin’s energy superpower, but that relationship cannot be founded on false pretenses.

The United States also announced last week that it put in place sanctions on two Russian companies — one of which is state-owned — for violating the Iran Nonproliferation Act and furnishing Iran with material that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded in a statement that the sanctions were “unlawful” because Russian companies “act in strict conformity with international law and Russian legislation.” The Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Russian officials who claimed that the sanctions were retribution for the $3 billion arms deal that Mr. Putin reached, over strong U.S. opposition, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (That Mr. Putin treated Mr. Chavez to a somewhat cooler reception than some of the Venezuelan firebrand’s other hosts on his recent tour, which included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reflects Mr. Putin’s low regard for Mr. Chavez’s anti-U.S. alliance, not his deference to United States.)

Like Mr. Putin’s obstructionism at the G-8 Summit, Russia earlier this week Russia helped the Arab League campaign to weaken the draft resolution on Lebanon at the United Nations. If Iran has not suspended its nuclear program when the Aug. 31 deadline set down by the Security Council is reached, continued Russian unwillingness to impose sanctions would surely undermine the council’s resolution. And providing Iran with technology for an advanced uranium enrichment process would undermine U.S. efforts entirely — with disastrous effects. Even Mr. Putin should not think that this is a good way to assert his Russo-centric world view.

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