To see the level of distrust that exists between the two sides consider this from a 1997 piece by Ariel Cohen, a foreign policy expert who has advised the U.S. governmentDistrust by itself can lead to war, or it can exacerbate real conflicts making war more likely. The main source of distrust is that no group can be assured that its opponents will not take advantage of its trust. (This is the "cause of quarrel" that Hobbes refers to as diffidence.) The international distrust creates an assurance problem and sets up a dynamic which is referred to as the security dilemma. In the absence of effective international institutions, each state must look after its own security. But due to general distrust, each state's efforts to make itself more secure can make its adversaries fell less secure. The resulting spiral of mutual distrust leads to war.
Please note that Mr Cohen feels that in return for foreign investment, Russia should accept NATO expansion. It is interesting to note Mr Cohen's feelings about Iran's nuclear program, even at such an early date.A more equitable balance of power in Eurasia
Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has become a weak regional power in need of Western assistance. At the same time, the Russian government makes unfair security demands on its neighbors -- for example, by trying to block Poland, the Czech Republic, and other countries from joining NATO. This behavior is reminiscent of efforts by the Soviet Union and the Romanov Empire to carve out spheres of influence and assure that Soviet or imperial Russian security interests prevailed over those of neighboring countries. In return for continued U.S. and multilateral economic aid, favorable debt rescheduling, and future foreign investment, Russia should recognize the seriousness of U.S. and European security and economic interests. Issues such as Moscow's acceptance of NATO expansion, agreement on theater missile defense, and termination of any Russian involvement in the Iranian military buildup should be pressed more firmly in diplomatic negotiations.
Russia is using Iran like a piece in a game of multidimensional chess that combines a realpolitik recognition of Moscow's relative weakness vis-ŕ-vis Washington with Russia's desire to push America out of the Persian Gulf, a vital zone of military and political predominance.
The Kremlin does not see Iran as a threat, but as a partner and an ad hoc ally to challenge U.S. power through the expansion of Russia's regional and international influence. While the Iranian agenda is clearly separate from that of Russia, the Kremlin uses Iran as geopolitical battering ram against the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf region and the Middle East. Not only is Russian support for Iran's nuclear program and arms sales good business from the Kremlin's perspective, but it advances a geopolitical agenda that is at least 20 years old.
Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of "multipolarity," both in the Middle East and worldwide. They seek to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions, shift away from the dollar as a reserve currency, and weaken NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They are also working to forge an anti-U.S. coalition to counterbalance the Euro-Atlantic alliance. The coalition will likely include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Russia is courting China, India, and other states to offset American influence.