Russian EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov says a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would be “dangerous.” He told DW the Kremlin has sent many “signals” urging Donald Trump not to go through with his threat to quit.
Posted in Brussels since 2005, Russia Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov has seen his country’s relations with the European Union hit both peaks and valleys. Chizhov told DW’s Teri Schultz the current crisis in relations hurts both Russia and the EU, but he acknowledges there doesn’t seem to be a major improvement on the horizon, amid deep differences over Syria and Ukraine as well as accusations in both directions about sowing disinformation.
DW: The Russian-EU relationship appears to be at a low point. Is it the worst you’ve seen?
Vladimir Chizhov: I’m afraid you’re right. They’re not at their best position. I would say they are “abnormal” at this point, the reason being that the EU — for reasons that I sometimes fail to understand — has frozen much of the architecture of a partnership that we had been jointly creating for years.
It may look a bit cumbersome these days, perhaps a bit too much rhetoric. We would rather not go back to business as usual from this point, but would rather make our business better than usual, better than we used to. That will happen, of course, when the EU changes its course towards cooperation with Russia. This is not to say that our interaction does not exist. Yes, political dialogue is continuing, cooperation at the expert level is going on, but more formalized meetings like summits that we used to have twice a year or ministerial-level meetings have not been happening since 2014, which is detrimental to both sides.
2014 — you mean since the annexation of Crimea?
I don’t understand the term.
What do you call it?
Well, the reunification of Crimea with Russia, I would call it.
Okay, since 2014. But they have also gotten significantly worse in the last year, in the last weeks with EU nations kicking out Russian diplomats [due to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.]
I believe that this misplaced notion of European solidarity has actually added some bad blood into our relations. That is true. Actually I was a bit perplexed, I would say, that European countries, members of the European Union — not all of them, most of them — have opted to support the quite unsubstantiated claims by one member state, actually the only one that is planning to leave the European Union, claims against Russia. We will see. It will be interesting to watch what happens when the real picture of what has happened and what has not happened, in Syria for example, will become public knowledge.
Let’s talk about something very urgent … that’s coming up in 10 days. The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the Iran nuclear deal. This is critical for European countries; Russia is one of the signatories. How dangerous is it — if it’s dangerous at all — if the US pulls out of the deal?
It is dangerous and I’m afraid the danger extends well beyond Iran and the deal itself. The deal was the product of a multilateral effort by six countries and the European External Action Service, which acted as coordinator for this effort to strike a deal that would on the one hand prevent the implementation of a military nuclear program in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and on the other hand, upon compliance with certain provisions of the deal, sanctions would be lifted from from Iran … It was a major diplomatic achievement by all concerned, including the United States, which actively participated. Now, well, I’m afraid that this deal has a few days to live. So if the United States slams the door on it, to put it mildly, then of course the United States will be in material breach of an agreement that had been endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council.
Has Russian President Vladimir Putin talked to US President Donald Trump?
Certainly certain signals have been forwarded during a lengthy period of time, because this is not something that has opened up several days ago. The last review, when the deal was certified by the US administration … four months ago, it was then that the White House said “OK we are doing this for the very last time.”
How will Russia react if the US does pull out?
We are in close contact with all the other parties, signatories, including the Iranians, and we are looking into the matter. I will not of course reveal the details of diplomatic conversations. We are looking forward to acting together as the remaining five members of the six-party format, and the Iranians and the European External Action Service. One open question is what the Iranian government will decide.
What do you think they will do?
I don’t know. It’s up to them. They’re considering their options at this point. The Iranians, of course, have been saying all along that they do not intend to acquire a nuclear weapon at all, so we will be in, I would say, very close discussions. I will not go further at this point because the timing now is quite delicate.