Russia once again demonstrated that in the dispute about Iranian nuclear program it is quite firmly in the Western camp, all the talk about its opposition to sanctions notwithstanding. Today an anonymous source in the Russian government said that Russia may pull out of the Bushehr reactor project if sanctions are imposed or IAEA inspectors expelled. Even though the Foreign Ministry immediately denied that any such plans exist, the signal has probably been sent - Russia is not ready to stand up to the pressure from the West.

Ironically, pulling out of the Bushehr would be exactly the wrong thing to do in this situation. If anyone hopes to make nuclear fuel supply guarantees work, Bushehr is the place to start. Unless the "client states" (using GNEP terminology) know that they will get fuel for their reactors no matter what, even if they are in a midst of a controversy about their alleged (and maybe even real) nuclear weapon ambitions, no elaborate and complicated schemes would ever work.

The fuel for Bushehr has been sitting in Novosibirsk since at least April 2005, its delivery delayed several times. Shipping it today and making sure that the reactor is completed without any new delays is the only way to make the fuel supply guarantee credible. Completing Bushehr would not help or hinder the existing Iranian enrichment efforts, but it would go a long way to prevent other states from rationalising their enrichment programs in the future.