The EU was impressively united, with member states backing the EU3. Russia backed new UN sanctions against Iran and made concessions on arms deliveries.
The EU has long sought Russian cooperation in negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme as part of the E3+3 process. In particular, the EU has wanted Russia to support the imposition of sanctions on Iran and hoped it could play a bridging role by bringing the US and Russia closer together on the issue. Russia, which helped build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, has significant leverage, and is therefore an important partner for the EU.
2010 was a relatively successful year in this respect. Most importantly, Russia voted in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 in June, backing a new round of sanctions against Iran. In September, Russia also announced it would cancel the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran. Finally, Russia helped persuade Iran to accept the offer of talks in Vienna with the E3+3 in November.
The EU was impressively united, with all member states backing the EU3 of France, Germany and the UK in their diplomacy with Russia. In particular, High Representative Catherine Ashton played a key role in creating a consensus that included member states that had previously been outliers for commercial or political reasons, such as Austria or Sweden. However, despite this impressive coherence, the EU’s capacity to trump Russian commercial interests in Iran is limited. Nor has it really attempted to horse-trade with Russia on other issues. In the end, therefore, greater Russian cooperation on Iran in 2010 was probably due more to the US “reset policy” than to EU influence.