Tehran is not necessarily developing a nuclear weapon, but even if it had one it would not use it against Israel, Russia’s foreign minister said Thursday.
The statement by Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting with Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin in Moscow, seemed aimed at calming Israel over fears that Iran’s nuclear program poses an existential threat.
“Russia believes that Iran does not plan to attack Israel with a nuclear weapon,” Lavrov told Rivlin .
Rivlin responded that Russia is the only country capable of stopping Iran’s nuclear program without imposing additional sanctions or resorting to military action.
“The friendship between Russia and Iran gives Moscow the opportunity and obligation to prevent Iran [from obtaining] a nuclear weapon,” Rivlin told Lavrov, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported.
“We do not automatically back Iran,” Lavrov said, and rejected Israel’s claim that Iran’s nuclear threat is credible. “Until now it is not clearly proven that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons. Russia estimates that Tehran does not plan to attack Israel with nuclear weapons, especially considering the demographic make-up of Israel, which includes millions of Arabs and Muslims,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov on Wednesday cautioned against military action against Iran, saying, “Time and again we hear threats that if there is no progress on Iran’s nuclear program only one option will remain — the use of force. We hope that will never happen.”
He added that attacking Iran would undermine “efforts to resolve all outstanding issues” regarding Tehran’s nuclear program.
Russia has consistently thwarted Western efforts to impose sanctions on Tehran at the United Nations, in part because of its economic interests at stake.
Russia built and partly operates Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and Moscow has sold Tehran billions of dollars in military equipment. In 2010, a political analyst estimated that sanctions levied against Iran would cost Moscow $13 billion from the arms trade alone, RIA Novosti reported. According to a Russian think tank cited by the paper, Iran’s $25 billion, 25-year rearmament program launched in 2001 relied heavily on Russian weapons.
Iranian-Russian bilateral trade stood at $3.4 billion per year in 2010.