In a press statement after the negotiations in Vienna, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chose his words carefully: “I’d be remiss not to mention the broader context of what happened. The solutions will, first, play an important role in strengthening the nonproliferation regime. Second, they will, of course, have a healing effect on the overall situation in the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Third, once this agreement is implemented, it will be possible to tackle other issues in that region.” Clearly, the message was meant to emphasize key takeaways from the deal with Iran. However, real challenges and opportunities for the Russian state stretch far beyond those sugarcoated in diplomatic courtesy. Moreover, the deal is not the culmination but rather the beginning of some serious, complicated multi-level work for Moscow in its relationship with Tehran.
In what seemed for years to be a nuclear deadlock, Moscow was believed to be less disturbed than most about the prospects of Iran getting the bomb. Some even opined that it could “live with it.” Indeed, Russia never emphasized the danger as a direct threat, as Washington saw it. Nevertheless, the Russian attitude to this issue was partly dictated by security concerns of another nature: Moscow feared the “export of insecurity” to its own boundaries, should another big war in the region have ignited — partly because the Kremlin probably overestimated its own relationship with the Islamic Republic. In any case, if the deal holds firm, the idea of a non-nuclear Iran is indeed a decent diplomatic achievement for all involved, including Russia.