President Vladimir Putin Answers Questions by the Valdai Discussion Club (Excerpts)

September 9, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

. . .

K. KAPCHAN: Kapchan, director of the Eurasia Group.

I would like to note that in academic circles in Washington and, I think, around the world, there is a certain lack of understanding of Russian policy with regard to Iran and the threat it represents, that is, the current energy crisis, the nuclear crisis. Could you please clarify Russia's position so that we can understand your policy better? In particular, is Russia opposed to Iran having a small uranium enrichment programme?

My second question: if Russia is opposed to Iran pursuing a national uranium enrichment programme, then would it be willing to support a UN Security Council decision to impose soft sanctions against Iran?

Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have spoken many times on this subject but I am willing to do again now. Russia is against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in the world. In this respect, we have called on our Iranian partners to renounce their uranium enrichment programme.

The Iranian nuclear issue is only part of the global problem of the so-called threshold states, countries that want to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This problem is not limited to Iran but is global in scale. In this context, the international community has several concerns regarding the proliferation or non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

First is that it is very difficult to control the enrichment of uranium needed for the nuclear energy industry and the subsequent additional enrichment to produce military-grade nuclear fuel. If a country is carrying out enrichment, it is very difficult to control the threshold separating enriched uranium from military-grade nuclear fuel. This is understandably an area of concern. I will say now what we can do to address this concern.

The second main concern is that spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants could be used to manufacture military-grade nuclear fuel. This is why we have proposed the creation of international nuclear enrichment and processing centres in order to ensure all countries wishing to develop nuclear energy democratic assess to their services. This would give any country unrestricted access to enriched nuclear fuel without them having the full nuclear fuel cycle on their own territory, and they would then be able to send the spent nuclear fuel to these centres for processing. We think that if a country genuinely want to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes this would be sufficient.

Regarding Iran, it is a specific case and I have been quite up front about this to our Iranian partners. We must take into consideration that Iran also has the right to develop advanced technology, and in this sense it is no different to Brazil or South Africa. But we also have to keep in mind that neither Brazil nor South Africa proclaim the goal of another state's destruction and write it into their constitutions, while Iran's leaders, unfortunately, declare it publicly, which is not in the interests of world security nor of Iran's own foreign policy. That is the first point.

Second, we should not forget what part of the world Iran is in. It is, after all, located in the very volatile Middle East region. This is why we have always called for it to accept certain self-restriction in order to calm the international community's concerns. But this should not amount to infringement of the right of Iran and its people to have nuclear technology.

Regarding sanctions, I think that we should reflect together with our partners, including from the group of six, and hold additional consultations with the Iranians before imposing any kind of sanctions. It would be better if we managed to avoid having to impose sanctions of any kind.

. . .