Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Micha’el Tanchum writes for Asia and the Pacific Policy Society Forum on China’s competition with Russia in the Middle East market for nuclear technology:
While the world’s attention was focused in Spring 2015 on the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations, one of those P5 nations – Russia – was hurriedly racing across the Middle East to sign nuclear plant construction contracts with Iran’s Sunni rivals. In addition to seizing upon a good business opportunity among Iran’s regional rivals, Russia was also attempting to outflank another P5 nation, China, which is emerging as Moscow’s rival in the Middle East market for civil nuclear technology.
Expanding Russia’s global market share in nuclear reactor construction is a policy priority for Moscow. During his first tenure as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin set a national goal of generating 25 percent of Russia’s electricity from nuclear energy by 2030. Russia has the second largest number of reactors under construction in the world. Preserving its premiere position in the global market for civil nuclear technology is also essential for Moscow’s maintenance of its own nuclear industry. However that position is now threatened by Beijing’s entrance into the global market with a Chinese-designed reactor. To build its brand, China is muscling Russia out of the market in a post-sanctions Iran. China’s emergence as a competing supplier of civil nuclear technology in Iran is one of the principal reasons Russia is scrambling across to secure new markets across the Middle East.