Barbara Slavin writes: As a short round of nuclear talks wound up Wednesday in Vienna, much of the world media’s focus has remained on the East-West standoff over Crimea. For Iran watchers, that has posed the question of whether the fallout from the Ukraine crisis will affect Russia’s behavior in multilateral negotiations with Iran.
For now, it appears that the impact on the talks themselves has been negligible. Catherine Ashton, the chief European negotiator, told reporters that the discussions had been “substantive and useful” and that negotiators from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) would meet their Iranian counterparts again in Vienna next month.
Having achieved an interim accord last November, negotiators have made some progress but remain far from resolving the complex technical issues that make a long-term agreement, in the words of a senior Obama administration official, akin to a “Rubik’s Cube.”
A more worrisome impact of the Ukraine crisis, however, may be that Russia is tempted to soften its compliance with multilateral sanctions against Iran if the United States and the European Union escalate what so far have been limited measures to punish about two dozen Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians for Russia’s reabsorption of Crimea. This becomes more likely if, as now seems probable, a long-term nuclear accord with Iran has not been achieved by July 20, at which point last year’s interim deal would have to be renewed if negotiations are to continue. [Continue reading…]