Russia Reaches Out to Iran
Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first and the few world leaders to congratulate Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his June election victory. Putin wasted little time in informing Iran’s new leader of his desire to strengthen relations between the two nations. “I am confident that your election … will maintain continuity in the development of long-term and multifaceted partnership and cooperation between our two states,” he wrote (Islamic Republic News Agency, June 25).
Is there more to Russia’s congeniality toward Iran? What does Moscow stand to gain from this controversial relationship?
The Russian news agency Novosti identified the economic benefits for Moscow: “[Russian-Iranian] relations have been developing dynamically …. Trade volume exceeded $2 billion for the first time. … There are good prospects in cooperation in the spheres of oil and gas, ordinary energy, transport, telecommunications and civil aviation” (June 26).
Russia has also expressed its interest in the construction of six more nuclear reactors, as well as 20 nuclear power plants, in Iran. It was also revealed in July that Russian defense company Rosoboron export is negotiating with Iran over the repair and modernization of Iranian submarines, “a $270 million deal that could revive the bilateral arms trade [between Russia and Iran] but further irritate the United States” (St. Petersburg Times, July 5; emphasis ours throughout).
Here is the driving reason behind the warming Russian-Iranian partnership: to defy the U.S. and marginalize, if not eradicate, American influence from the neighborhood of both countries—the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Russia and Iran are aligned perfectly in their views of America. “The ussr had a lot of traditional allies. Some of them lean toward Russia nowadays, demonstrating coldness and sometimes hostility with regard to the United States. Moscow takes these countries under its wing, becoming a natural center of anti-American axis …” (Defense and Security, June 24). Iran is one of those countries.
The fact is, anti-Americanism is a defining ideology underlying Russian-Iranian relations.
While mutual economic benefits and the desire by both nations to compete with and marginalize American power will draw these two nations together, there is one other critical reason behind Moscow’s attempts to woo Iran: a united Europe.
Though Europe is presently laden with political and economic troubles, Russia is keenly aware that should the European Union ever free itself of the baggage that divides it, it will become a most powerful and dangerous alliance of nations.
Russia remembers its bloody history with a militarized Europe and is eager to counter the Continent’s future dominance by building an alliance with the leading rival nation—Iran.
For the same reason, Russia is furthering its ties with China, Japan and the rest of Asia also—for while Russia and Iran stand to gain much from their mutually beneficial relations, time will prove that Moscow’s strongest alliance will be with its eastern neighbors.