By Mohammad Ali Saki

Russia says Trump’s policies have eroded trust in U.S. 

December 19, 2020 - 22:11

TEHRAN - Director of the Russian Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS) says the policies adopted by the outgoing Trump administration have raised serious questions over the reliability of the U.S. as a partner.

In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, Anton Khlopkov notes that “Trump’s administration foreign policy raised a critically important question how reliable is the United States as a partner of a treaty or in other international deals.”
The United States, under the Trump administration, unilaterally pulled out of certain international deals and treaties, including the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement – JCPOA - signed in July 2015.   
The CENESS director says the Trump administration “withdrew from the JCPOA, INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty as well as from a number of other bilateral trade or security-related agreements.”
The following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you assess the U.S. administration’s behavior at the international level given that Washington has quit many international agreements such as the JCPOA? 

A: The statement from Jo Biden that he is interested to return the United States to the JCPOA should be welcomed but of course there are many challenges to bring the United States back because there are some technical issues, there are some legal issues; also there are some forces inside and outside the United States which are interested to prevent rejoining the JCPOA. Of course, there is another issue that how to prevent unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the deal again. I think it would be very important to think how to develop a mechanism to guarantee that Washington would not announce another unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA in four years’ time following the arrival of a new administration, especially since Joe Biden is unlikely due to his age to run for another term.  

But this kind of new mechanism to guarantee that Washington will not withdraw from the JCPOA should be developed or all parties of the U.S. should try to develop that after Washington rejoining the JCPOA or after Iran return to full compliance to the deal because I think it must be the first step for Washington to rejoin the deal before any other related issue should be discussed. Firstly, the U.S. and Iran should return to the JCPOA as it was originally adopted in July 2015.

Q: How can Iran or Russia trust the U.S. now that Washington has unilaterally pulled out of international deals?

A: Trump’s administration foreign policy raised a critically important question how reliable is the United States as a partner of the treaty or in other international deals because Trump’s administration withdrew from the JCPOA, INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty as well as from a number of other bilateral trade or security-related agreements.

The good news is that the JCPOA is multinational. It means that multinational support makes this deal more sustainable and I think the recent developments when the Trump administration was trying to reinterpret those agreements in a way to condemn Iran in the Security Council, but those attempts failed twice, the first was about conventional arms export and import to and from Iran and the second was when the Trump administration tried to use so-called snapback mechanism. This is another evidence that actually negotiators from Iran and P5+1made a very good deal when they negotiated the JCPOA. Even with all power and leverage of the United States including military, political, and economic, the Trump administration was not able to kill the deal despite the will to do so. This is another evidence of the importance of multinational diplomacy.  

Q: How do you assess the Iran-Russia relationship in the light of the JCPOA?

A: First of all, I hope very much that full compliance with the JCPOA would restore all original parties of the deal including Washington and Iran. I should mention that Russia-Iran relations should develop further not only in the light of that process but independently because the two countries are neighbors and strong and solid bilateral relations should be a basis for working to gather in many fields; in science, in the economy as well as in political relations. Here I should mention that despite those sanctions and Trump administration policies, the good news is that bilateral trade between the two countries is growing according to official statistics of the Russian Federation. It increased 20 percent last year and even during the first half of the year increased a few percent despite the pandemic. I should also underline here that political ties between the two countries are very strong. During spring and summer this year Foreign Minister Zarif visited Russia three times. 

It is an indicator of how close our political exchanges are and it will be very important to convert those active political exchanges to more active trade which goes beyond importing food, Iranian vegetables, and fruits to Russia and we do need big infrastructure projects like Bushehr in other energy-related and in infrastructure-related areas. If we succeed to expand our cooperation in those areas I think it will make our relations even more sustainable and stronger.

Q: Do you think that Iran and Russia have succeeded to widen the scope of their political partnership to increase their economic interactions as well?

A: It is easy and difficult at the same time to explain why Russia-Iran's economic relations while improving, are still quite limited. The first simple answer is that Iran traditionally is a big oil exporter and Russia is a big exporter of oil as well. It means that this is not what Russia would be interested to cooperate with Iran.

Another and probably more complicated element of the answer we should work together to improve the business mutual environment to expand the trade between the two countries.  I have an impression though I am not an expert on economic cooperation between Iran and Russia. I have an impression that business people from our country and Russian companies don’t know well how to work in Iran’s environment and vice versa. I think there should be additional efforts by business councils of two countries that would facilitate the expansion of bilateral trade and economic ties between the two countries and especially efforts should be made on awareness.

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