Ukraine Crisis Strengthens the China-Iran-Russia Axis

Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at rafizadeh@fas.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.


putin_flagRussia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and China have strengthened geopolitical ties to create a united front after President Vladimir V. Putin reclaimed Crimea as a part of Russia and after the Crimean local government called for a referendum to secede the peninsula from Ukraine.

The Russian-American standoff over Ukraine has made these three nations more united in attempting to create a new power pole, counterbalancing and resisting the West— particularly the United States— in the region and beyond.

Last week, Iran’s state-run Press TV announced that Putin and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani agreed that Moscow would build two additional nuclear power plants for Tehran as well as construct new facilities next to Iran’s power plant in the city of Bushehr. Each plant will offer the Islamic Republic 1,000 megawatts of power and assist the Islamic Republic in eliminating its reliance on oil as well.

Since the Ukraine crisis, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, has repeatedly pointed out that the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to continue its mutual cooperation with Russia regarding its nuclear facilities and strategic interests. China, which generally follows Russia’s foreign policies when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, did not object to the recent moves. On the other hand, there has not been strong leadership from the West, particularly from the Obama administration, to condemn or halt such a move.

The Islamic Republic is benefiting from the Ukrainian crisis, as it finds Russia moving closer towards Tehran to reinforce its strategic depth in the region to obstruct Western objectives. Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are attempting to restore their wounded regional and international prestige by defying the West. In addition, Khamenei, Rouhani and his nuclear team are taking advantage of this crisis by feeling less pressure to make concessions in the current nuclear talks. 

Rouhani addressed the provincial managers and officials of Bushehr province pointing out,

Our first nuclear power plant is active in the (Bushehr) province which will develop, God willing… Based on our estimates, the second nuclear power plant will be built in the same province and I hope that we can use the facilities of this province.

Sallehi defiantly stated, “We are not obliged to introduce to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the nuclear facilities that we are to build in the future and only 180 days before entry of nuclear substances there, we will inform the IAEA of them.”

Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany) started their diplomatic negotiations this week to make headway on the nuclear dispute, which aims to create a lasting accord permanently resolving the decade-old nuclear standoff, preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining an atomic bomb and possibly averting the threat of another war in the Middle East.  The interim nuclear deal expires on July 20th and the P5+1 are aiming at agreeing on comprehensive one before this date.

Several Western diplomats and policy analysts are claiming that the US-Russian confrontation is not going to undermine the quest for a final nuclear deal over Iran’s atomic activity or Tehran’s nuclear defiance; however, this idealistic view seems to be unrealistic.

Although Russia and China agreed to reconvene for the nuclear talks and hold meetings during the Ukraine crisis, this act does not necessarily mean that they are going to agree with the West’s terms for the final nuclear deal.  They are going to use these nuclear talks as geopolitical and strategic leverage to forcefully push for their own political and strategic agenda in the nuclear talks.

In other words, Russia and China are going to affect the final deal’s details and nuances that are being negotiated, including the amount of centrifuges that Tehran can retain, the level at which they are allowed to enrich uranium, the preservation of the plutonium reactor in Arak (Fordow), and the scope of IAEA inspectors monitoring the nuclear facilities.

As American-Russia tensions continue, Moscow is going to be far less strict on Iran’s nuclear program. While the Western powers attempt to significantly scale back and reduce Tehran’s centrifuges from approximately 20,000 to a few thousand, Moscow has been far more lenient, pointing out that it is willing to accept a final deal with Tehran retaining most of its nuclear infrastructure with nearly 20,000 centrifuges. Beijing has taken the same position.

The Ukraine crisis has provided Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran with a new platform to further establish their strategic depth and present themselves as influential political actors in the region. As the West-Russia standoff simmers, the Western powers will find it much more difficult to attain Moscow’s support for the specific terms that they desire in the final nuclear deal.

While the Ukrainian crisis moves Russian leaders closer to their Iranian counterparts, Tehran is feeling less pressure to make concessions as well. The final deal will likely be much less strict on Iran’s nuclear activities, the number of the centrifuges it can retain, and the level of uranium enrichment it can pursue.

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  • Ahmadd

    It is funny how Putin is doing whatever he wants, and the coward West is hiding like a mouse not knowing what to do. Western leaders probably saying:Putin, please do what you want but dont attack us. And yes, three country in the East can sweep all the countries in the West. They have thousands of years history ….

    • Geoffrey_Britain

      Sweeping “all the countries in the West” would result in nuclear war. Mecca is on the target list.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        The pawns imagine that they are the kings.

    • tpain

      The west is not doing anything because they don’t want to do anything. They pretend like they care. If they truly care, they would have gone into Syria long ago. 100,000 plus Syrians died.

  • Muhammad79

    Western countries are all hypocrites

    • Geoffrey_Britain

      And the Middle East Muslim countries, rapists and murderers.

      • MosesDivine

        Good thing your list is incomplete, or it would have to be censored.

    • Edward E

      “Multiculturalism” is a program that is FORCED upon EVERY & ONLY White countries.

      “Multiculturalism” is a program to turn EVERY White country into a non-White country.

      This IS geNOcide. WHITE geNOcide.

      If you are White, and you object to your own geNOcide, you are called a RACIST!

      Well guess what, my people, White people, are catching on very quickly to the following two things:

      1 – Multiculturalism is a code for White geNOcide.

      2 – Anti-racist is a code for anti-White.

  • JVictor

    Hmm. It appears that the Princes of Persia, Gog, and Magog are aligning themselves. Where has this alliance been mentioned before?

  • Nan

    Sometimes I wonder whether Russia’s alignment with Iran and China could backfire and force Sharia on the entire East.

    • kilfincelt

      We can only hope but the Russian and Chinese strategy could easily backfire. Both countries are fighting Islamic Jihadists now. I could see Iran’s leaders quietly providing material for dirty bombs to those same Jihadists.

      • Geoffrey_Britain

        nuclear weapons residue is traceable. Traced back to Iran, how do you think Putin and the totalitarian Chinese would retaliate?
        Verbal bluster or a 50 megaton over Tehran?

        • objectivefactsmatter

          “nuclear weapons residue is traceable.”

          Not always. It’s like fingerprinting.

          In theory it is, but you need an accurate and complete database.

    • Solo712

      Russia’s preference for Tehran over Riadh is no mystery. All Russia’s “islam” problems come from the Saudi export of Wahabism which has been displacing the more peaceable native versions of islam in the Northern Caucasus – Caspian region. The locals are predominantly Sufis and Shia, the latter dominating Azerbaijan.

  • Garvey … Once a tolerant bre

    This site should be called “proganda pagemag”

    I cannot read another factotums piece of guess work.

    • UCSPanther

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Bokassa.

      • Geoffrey_Britain

        Its a pic of Marcus Garvey, a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements. “Black’ nationalism is of course, a euphemism for black racism, just as ‘white’ nationalism is as well.

    • Geoffrey_Britain

      “Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across the truth.
      Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business
      as if nothing had happened.” Winston Churchill

    • objectivefactsmatter

      I’m so confused. It must be someone else’s fault.

  • Geoffrey_Britain

    The formation of the China-Iran-Russia Axis occurred long ago.

    “Rogue states never turn out to be quite the pariahs they are deemed. They
    are only able to cause, or at least threaten to cause, mayhem because they enjoy the covert support – usually by means of technology transfers – of one or more major powers within the charmed circle of global ‘good guys’.”
    Margaret Thatcher

    Russia and China have been running interference for Iran in the UN for many decades.

  • MosesDivine

    If you read the book of Ezekiel, you shouldn’t be surprised…

  • RMthoughts

    Like with World War I, the liberals want to wipe out a conservative nation’s power. Now Obama wants to get Russia. That’s why the U.S. government backed the putsch in Kiev. Joke’s on them if the new Ukraine is neo-Nazi. (Historically understandable. The western Ukrainians welcomed the Germans as liberators. The eastern Ukraine is Russia. The center, including Kiev, is Russian-speaking. The west speaks Ukrainian It isn’t Russian. Stalin stole it during the war. The Crimea just self-determined. It is Russia and always will be.

  • http://www.twitter.com/changeirannow Change Iran Now

    The term of the Axis of Evil was coined to describe the chain of terror-sponsoring nations such as North Korea and Iran. It aptly describes a new, dangerous and powerful alliance that can be seen developing between Iran, Russia and China where each country finds common cause in opposing the U.S. It’s an apt embodiment of the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This new geo-political alignment poses substantial risks for the West in the long run and needs to be countered strongly diplomatically and economically.