Medvedev: I would recommend that Mr. Gorbachev take a closer look at Putin's words. He merely said that if Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are still attractive to the people as political figures at the time of the next presidential election, then we will sit down and decide which of us will stand for election -- so that we don't impede each other. He did not maintain that we would decide among ourselves who would be the next president. That would of course be ridiculous.
SPIEGEL: In the meantime, there are enough political challenges. On Dec. 5 the START treaty on arms control will expire. US President Barack Obama is already dreaming of a world without nuclear weapons. Did he speak with you about how he wants to achieve this objective?
Medvedev: Who else should do it, if not us? The greatest nuclear potential is currently in the hands of Russia and the US. If we don't address this, there will be no disarmament. We have recently moved at quite a brisk pace, also because the new administration in Washington has made this issue a top priority -- in contrast to its predecessor, which appeared to be totally uninterested in strategic disarmament. Now we have every opportunity to agree on lower thresholds and define monitoring measures. At the end of the year, we could sign a legally binding document.
SPIEGEL: The ground-breaking role of Moscow and Washington won't be enough.
Medvedev: Correct, other nuclear powers show no signs of such an attitude. Even our close European partners don't share this attitude -- you can imagine who I mean.
SPIEGEL: This could only be France and the UK.
Medvedev: Emerging nuclear powers show even less understanding, particularly those that illegally attempt to acquire nuclear technologies. And then there are countries that won't admit that they have nuclear weapons, but won't deny it, either. We have to think of ways that we can convince everyone to renounce nuclear weapons.
SPIEGEL: You are familiar with the West's fears of a nuclear-armed Iran. How will Russia act in this case? To what extent do you intend to accommodate Tehran with arms deliveries and the pursuit of its nuclear energy program?
Medvedev: Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, under the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- there is no objection to that. The country must only respect the applicable regulations; it cannot attempt to conceal any facilities. The discovery of the new plant at Qom is alarming. It is also surprising that this information has only now been made public. Should the negotiations on enriching Iran's uranium for peaceful purposes prove successful, we would be happy to take part in this program.
SPIEGEL: And if not?
Medvedev: Theoretically, all options would still be on the table. I have spoken with Obama in New York about this. I don't want it all to end with sanctions. But if things don't move forward, such a scenario cannot be ruled out.
SPIEGEL: What about the Russian arms deliveries?
Medvedev: We will only deliver arms that serve defensive purposes, no offensive weapons.
SPIEGEL: Do you see a danger that the West in Afghanistan could suffer the same fate as the Soviet Union, which, after nine years of war and 15,000 military casualties, withdrew its troops from the Hindu Kush in 1989?