Thursday, November 30, 2017

Debalina Ghoshal, Gatestone Institute: Russia's Dangerous Nuclear "Diplomacy"

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Russia's Dangerous Nuclear "Diplomacy"

Russia has been trying to relieve itself of the economic slowdown it has faced ever since the West imposed sanctions on it for invading the Ukraine. To that end, Russia's state owned nuclear energy organization, Rosatom, of Uranium One stardom, has been attempting to develop nuclear cooperation with most of the countries in the Middle East. Russia apparently considers the Middle East and North Africa two of the most lucrative markets; countries in the Middle East have already expressed interest in building 90 nuclear power plants at twenty-six sites across the region by 2030.


One the strategies Rosatom developed was the Build Own Operate (BOO) plan. Under it, Russia would undertake building and operating the nuclear power plants – then start influencing the foreign policy decisions of the country supposedly to "protect" the nuclear power plants from supposed terrorists, and from there to project military influence in the region as it has done in Syria, with its naval base at Tartus and its air base at Latakia.
Russia has already strengthened its defense and military cooperation with Iran and Turkey.


Rosatom will most likely face competition from other big players in the region such as China and South Korea, which are also trying to gain a foothold in the Middle East's nuclear energy market. 


Russia, however, seems to be finding it easy to maneuver itself in the Middle East to establish a nuclear -- and diplomatic -- monopoly in the region. It has been providing lucrative offers to the Middle Eastern countries including financial packages for the nuclear deal. This means that Russia pre-financed the nuclear cooperation by providing loans that will later be paid off by the countries to which the loan has been provided. Russia has also been ensuring nuclear safety and waste management for the countries with which it is involved and sometimes even reprocesses spent fuel, as with Iran.

The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant, in Iran. (Photo by IIPA via Getty Images)
Middle Eastern countries seem as eager to partner with a great power such as Russia as Russia does to partner with them. That way, "everyone" in the region could enjoy greater influence, militarily and otherwise.

Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.