Russia Playing a Dangerous Game That Could Spark The Next War

Russia announced this week that it would proceed with a plan to sell 29 sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, spurning a call by the Bush administration to not “continue with the arms sale.”

Rosa Brooks writes today in the Los Angeles Times that the Russian-Iranian deal is cause for alarm because it could precipitate the next war, a war between Iran and Israel. Brooks writes that Russia is playing a deceptive “double game” that could initiate such a war in the near future:

Russian leaders continue to mouth the usual diplomatic platitudes about democracy and global cooperation, but Russia is actually playing a complex double game. On Tuesday, Russia launched a spy satellite for Israel, which the Israelis can use to monitor Iran’s nuclear facilities. On the same day, Russian leaders confirmed their opposition to any U.N. Security Council effort to impose sanctions against Iran, and their intention to go through with the lucrative sale of 29 Tor M1 air defense missile systems to Iran.

Sergei Markov, a Russia expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, spoke this week about the dangers of the Russian missile deal:

[W]e realize perfectly well that as soon as Israeli intelligence gets information that the missiles have been dispatched to Iran, it is very likely that the missile attack against Iranian nuclear facilities will be launched particularly at that moment by Israel.

Brooks writes a regional war would draw the U.S. into the conflict, causing the entire Middle East to “implode,” terrorist attacks worldwide to increase further, and the U.S.’s global influence to wane. Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst, believes Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs won’t shed any tears over a war in the Middle East, especially if it keeps oil prices high.

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The Bush administration’s lackluster Russia policy is proving extremely costly. Some have suggested the administration should demonstrate its displeasure with Russia by either convening a summit of the G-7 (excluding Russia) prior to the upcoming G-8 summit or to boycott the summit altogether. But “the Bush administration appears to be asleep at the wheel, too distracted by Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting approval ratings to devote any attention to Russia’s potentially catastrophic mischief.”