04/14/2015 05:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Russia Makes the First Move With Iran -- Early Bird Special


Co-authored by William Witenberg a contemporary artist focused on abstract painting

Russia announced that it is going to begin selling Iran its s-300 missile defense system. This ends the ban that was placed in 2010 as part of the sanctions the United Nations imposed on Iran. The s-300 is a ground to air system that can shoot down planes or missiles. This is no small matter.

Iran has been relatively defenseless against advanced missiles or aircrafts. Whatever the world's concerns have been about Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons; Israel and the West have always known they had the ability to relatively easily destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Now that task is made significantly more difficult.

While the lifting of sanctions on Iran is desired by the Obama administration, the fact is it is not yet a done deal. Russia's decision underlines that Putin is not concerned with waiting for America to agree to lift sanctions. While Russia is an important oil exporter it sells significant amounts of weapons. Last year it did 15 billion dollars worth of sales. If sanctions are lifted, look for Russia and Iran to conduct more business with each other. By being the first country to ignore sanctions Putin is assuring his Russia to be the first beneficiary of a stronger Iranian economy.

Whatever effect declining oil prices and Western sanctions have had on Russia's economy it is clear they have not affected Russian foreign policy in Ukraine or now in Iran. It may be simply that sanctions are not an effective foreign policy tool when dealing with Russia. Remarkably, Russian economy has stopped slowing down and some say it is recovering. Russian stock market is performing better than most stock markets in the world so far this year; Newsweek reports that "the ruble, after losing nearly half its value against the dollar over the course of a year, is rebounding; interest rates have come down from their post-sanctions peak; the government is taking in more revenue than its own forecast expected; and foreign exchange reserves have risen nearly $10 billion from their post-crisis low."

Maybe, it's time to rethink our policy of sanctions towards Russia. Perhaps the failure of sanctions against Russia and the independence with regard to Iran that Russia is showing suggest a different type of dialogue between the two countries is needed. Certainly its proven a more economically independent Russia means sanctions are not effective.