After months of increasing US pressure, Ukraine announced on 6 March that it would not supply turbines for Iran’s nuclear power plant, currently under construction at Bushehr with Russian assistance. Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister, Anton Buteiko, insisted that this “does not mean that Kiev’s interest in cooperation with Iran is any less” and that “Iran remains one of priority partners for Ukraine in a number of areas”. The decision followed talks in Kiev between the Ukrainian leadership with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Buteiko said it was the result of “thorough and comprehensive analysis” based on economic, rather than political factors.

Announcing the decision, Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko said it had been difficult as it meant Ukraine losing $45 million. Ukraine had little choice in the matter as Washington had made it clear that supplying the turbines could put American aid at risk. Kiev could lose half of its $220 million a year in US assistance. Ukraine is the third largest recipient of American aid after Israel and Egypt.

Washington has also taken steps to compensate Ukraine for the loss of the contracts. American companies will now be permitted to access the Ukraine nuclear energy market and Westinghouse is expected to bid on a $1.2 billion project to complete two Russian-designed nuclear plants in Ukraine.

Russia ignores US pressure

Russia, for its part, has no intention of bowing to US pressure to cancel the Iran contract. “Ukraine is just one subcontractor which can be replaced quite easily with another,” said MINATOM spokesman, Vitaliy Nasonov.

Russia has, in fact, increased its involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme in recent weeks. During the second session of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, agreement was reached in principle on the construction of Bushehr 3 & 4.