FAREED ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about some of the other issues that you face. Russia has said that it does not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Putin has said that, you have said that. Yet the IAEA says that Iran is not cooperating to give the world confidence that it has a purely civilian programme. Iran says it will no longer negotiate on this issue, and yet Russia says it will not support any further sanctions against Iran. So, is the policy of not wanting Iran to develop nuclear weapons on Russia’s part – are these empty words or do you have concrete steps you are willing to take to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We have our fairly developed relations with Iran, that is why I can speak of Iran’s intentions not by hearsay, not on the basis of the information received from special services of other countries, but proceeding from the reality. Of course, I believe that Iran needs a set of motives to behave appropriately as far as its nuclear programme is concerned. There is no doubt about that.
Secondly, Iran must cooperate with the IAEA. It must be done, because it is its obligation.
Thirdly, we should create for Iran a system of positive motives, so that it wants such cooperation. On September 9, 2009 Iran submitted its proposals concerning these very complicated issues, and they are being analyzed now.
There have been voices that it is not enough, that those proposals are too general. You know, I believe, that it is obligation of all nations involved in this problem to study these proposals, at least. It took quite a long time for Iran to study the package of incentives that had been given to it through Solana’s mediation at that time. Now, we need to study its package.
As for the sanctions, I have just had a chance to talk about it during my meeting with political analysts, who attended a conference here. I told them one very simple thing: as a rule, sanctions result in nothing, though sometimes sanctions are necessary. But before speaking of applying additional sanctions, we should make full use of the existing possibilities. That would be a responsible behavior by the world community. Yes, of course, we should encourage Iran, but before taking any action we should be absolutely confident that we have no other options and that our Iranian colleagues do not hear us for some reason. This is, I believe, the simplest and most pragmatic position. By the way, I voiced this position during the consultations on this issue, which took place during the G8 summit in Italy, when we discussed this question. It was discussed by all G8 leaders.
FAREED ZAKARIA: But do I take you to be saying that Iran does have an obligation to cooperate with IAEA? And if it does not, is Russia willing to step up to its responsibilities as a world power and press in the UN and in other ways to ensure Iran does cooperate?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Iran must cooperate with the IAEA, this is an absolutely indubitable thing, if it wishes to develop its nuclear dimension, nuclear energy programme. This is its duty and not a matter of its choice, because otherwise a question will be raised all the time: what it is really doing? And this is as plain as a day.
FAREED ZAKARIA: And Russia is willing to exercise its responsibilities?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Certainly.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about another issue relating to this. Russia has agreed to sell Iran the S-300 antiaircraft and antimissile system. When you will deliver it to Iran?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Our relations with Iran really have a military component and we believe that this work should completely correspond to the international obligations both from the part of Iran and from the part of Russia. We have never supplied and will not supply to Iran anything that is beyond the valid system of the international law. What we have supplied and what we are going to supply, it has been and always will be the defense complexes and this is our firm position, and I will hold to it when making final decisions as to the all existing contracts with Iran.
FAREED ZAKARIA: You know that there are many people in Israel who say that if you deliver that system, the Israelis will feel they will have to strike Iran before that system is deployed because once that system is deployed, an Israeli attack on Iran becomes much more difficult. So by delivering that system you open up a window or a period of considerable tension.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: In an hour I will have a conversation with President of Israel Mr. Peres, who, when he recently was visiting me in Sochi, said something that is very important for all of us, namely, that Israel is not going to deliver any blows on Iran, that Israel is a peaceful country and will not do it. Therefore any supplies of any weapons, all the more defensive weapons, can not increase tension; on the contrary they should ease it. But if there are people who have such plans, it seems to me that they have to think about it. For this reason, our task is not to strengthen Iran and weaken Israel or vise versa but our task is to ensure a normal, calm situation in the Middle East. I believe that is our task.
FAREED ZAKARIA: When Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Moscow, did you say that to him?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Prime Minister Netanyahu has visited Moscow. They did it in a close regime, it was their decision. I do not even understand very well the reasons for it, but our partners made such a decision and our reaction was absolutely normal and calm. I have had a conversation with him.
FAREED ZAKARIA: But did you feel like it was a positive meeting?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: It was a good, normal meeting. We have discussed the most different problems. Before that I met with President Peres, after that I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is normal, this is our dialogue. And Ahmadinejad visited us, but, to be true, earlier than that and it was not a bilateral meeting, he came to attend as an observer the session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We communicate with everybody. I believe that this is our advantage.
FAREED ZAKARIA: If Israel were to attack Iran, would Russia support Iran in such a conflict?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Russia can not support anybody or act in such situation. We are a peaceful state and we have our own understanding of our defense strategy. This is the first point.
The second point. We have our allies with which we have concluded one or other agreements. In case of Iran we do not have obligations of this kind. But it does not mean that we would like to be or will be impassible before such developments. This is the worst thing that can be imagined. I have already commented on this issue. Let us try together to reason upon it. What will happen after that? Humanitarian disaster, a vast number of refugees, Iran’s wish to take revenge and not only upon Israel, to be honest, but upon other countries as well. And absolutely unpredictable development of the situation in the region. I believe that the magnitude of this disaster can be weighted against almost nothing. For this reason before making decision to deliver blows it is necessary to assess the situation. It would be the most unreasonable developments. But my Israeli colleagues told me that they were not planning to act in this way and I trust them.
FAREED ZAKARIA: So you expect no Israeli strike on Iran?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I hope that this decision will not be made. Iran should be pushed to cooperate. And indeed, Iran should not pronounce such things that it has stated, for example in relation to Israel, when it said that it did not recognize the existence of this state. It is unacceptable in the modern world, in the modern system of international relations. And this is the point Iran should start thinking about. [continued…]