The Kremlin hasn't been too interested in slapping stiff sanctions on Iran over its rogue nuclear program. On the Security Council, Russia, with an assist from China, has acted more like defense counsel for Tehran than a responsible member of the international community seeking to stem nuclear proliferation. While Beijing invests in Iran's (and Sudan's for that matter) energy industry, the Russians have opened the arms spigot to Tehran. Today's New York Times reports on a new Congressional Research Service study of international arms sales:
The [Russian] sales to improve Iran's air-defense system are particularly troubling to the United States because they would complicate the task of Pentagon planners should the president order airstrikes on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities.
The Bush administration has vowed a diplomatic solution in dealing with Iran. But as United Nations diplomats argue over potential sanctions against Iran for its nuclear ambitions, Russian officials have expressed reluctance to vote for the most stringent economic sanctions, partly owing to Moscow's extensive trade relations with Tehranâ€¦.
The Russian sales in 2005 included 29 of the SA-15 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile systems for Iran; Russia also signed deals to upgrade Iran's Su-24 bombers and MIG-29 fighter aircraft, as well as its T-72 battle tanks.