In January 1995, Viktor Mikhailov, the Russian minister of atomic energy, and Reza Amrollahi, the chair of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, negotiated an $800 million contract to complete a reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr, which a German firm had abandoned after the 1979 revolution. Construction at the original Bushehr plant had marked Iran's foray into the development of nuclear power. (Previous reactors, supplied primarily by the United States, were dedicated to research.) Russia's decision to revive the reactor infuriated U.S. officials and hindered efforts to thaw relations between the two countries.
Cooperation between Russia and Iran continued relatively smoothly over the following years, and leaders from both sides were quick to redress any emerging problems. When work on Bushehr fell behind schedule in 1998, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov visited Iran and pledged greater involvement of Russian technicians in the project.
Under the stewardship of Vladimir Putin, Russia intensified the nuclear cooperation, even as the United States placed increasing pressure on Moscow to help curtail the program. While President Bill Clinton successfully persuaded Boris Yeltsin to cancel plans to supply Iran with gas-centrifuge uranium technology in the summer of 1995, his administration failed to extract meaningful concessions from Putin. Moscow brushed off accusations in 1998 that Russian firms were transferring missile technology to the Iranians, including designs that could carry nuclear warheads. In 2000, a series of high-level, bilateral meetings that included Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson failed to convince Russia to curb support for the project.
Still, Russian support for Iran has at times appeared to wane: in 2002, Moscow chastised Iranian leaders for concealing details of a uranium enrichment program, and in June of 2004, Russia pledged that it would halt work at Bushehr if Iran continued to defy international demands. In February of 2007, officials delayed a fuel shipment over alleged "missed payments"; eight months later, after the return home of some Russian nuclear technicians from Iran, Putin reiterated that Tehran must comply with UN resolutions before Bushehr could be completed.