Iraqi oil drives Russia closer to US

As France and Germany push for a strong UN political role in Iraq, Russia is quietly pursuing its own interests - including oil - in negotiations with the US.

    Putin knows Russia's priorities

    Moscow has submitted its own amendment to a draft United Nations resolution circulated by the United States, separate to the proposal put forward by Berlin and Paris.


    Despite shared concerns over Iraq, the European anti-war troika that led opposition to the US invasion of the country in March appears to have splintered as Moscow was able to mend fences with Washington far quicker than the 'old Europe'.


    Troika split


    "Russia has distanced itself from this European troika. To the Kremlin, this looks like a game of diminishing results," said Dmitry Trenin, deputy director of the Moscow Carnegie Centre think-tank.


    "The Russians are interested in having the UN play a larger role because it gives Russia a larger role. But the Russians have been pretty accommodating to the United States on Iraq and they don't want to be seen as a problem, the spoiler," he added.


    The rewards for Moscow are potentially significant, observers say.


    LUKoil, Russia's second-largest oil producer, has been frozen out of the giant West Qurna oilfield contract it held under Saddam Hussein's government and other Russian firms are itching to do business in Iraq.


    "Putin is coming over not to argue with Bush. Putin is ready to move on, for him the war is ancient history not to be revisited"

    Dmitry Trenin
    Carnegie Centre, Moscow

    "Russia is more pragmatic because it is interested in the oil business in Iraq. It wants Russian companies to continue to work there in exchange for support badly needed by Washington right now," said Yevgeny Volk, Moscow director of the US think-tank Heritage Foundation.


    "Washington appears ready to accept some Russian cooperation in restoring the Iraqi economy," he added.


    The Russian text merely calls for the world body to "strengthen its role in Iraq" although, like the French-German proposal, it calls for the creation of a timetable for when the US would hand the nation back to Iraq.


    US officials have publicly praised Russia's more "constructive" attitude.


    With Russian President Vladimir Putin flying to the United States later in September for a Camp David summit with his US counterpart George W Bush, the last thing Moscow wants is to provoke a renewed rift with Washington.


    "Putin is coming over not to argue with Bush. Putin is ready to move on, for him the war is ancient history not to be revisited," said Trenin of Carnegie. 


    SOURCE: Agencies


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