President Raisi’s trip to the largest neighbor of Iran took place while the international stage has been witnessing intensification of tensions in the Washington-Moscow-Beijing triangle, in other words, surge of the new cold war revolving around subjects like Ukraine, the Balkans, Middle East and Afghanistan developments. The reality is the Tehran-Moscow interactions have specific sensitivities and characteristics and in a way both sides have needed to both interact cautiously and secure their national interests.
In the new circumstances in which president Putin and Russia have staged an all-out campaign for reviving the Russian status on the international stage, especially for countering the US ambitions around the world, including in the Middle East, relations with Tehran have become especially important, and the two sides have had close and deciding cooperation in Syria and the Afghanistan developments, the main result of which being saving Syria from collapse and restoring balance and stability to West Asia.
Tehran and Moscow have effective cooperation in various terms and the important reality is despite remarkable progress in security and political interactions, the type of relations in the economic and cultural areas has a long distance from the existent capacities. For example, the two sides have not managed in trade and economic exchanges to even get close to 1% of foreign trade of the two countries which is almost $7 billion, and currently considering the remarkable growth of mutual exchanges this figure may reach about $2 billion. However, during our former president’s several trips to Russia, the $10 billion figure targeted for two countries in 2020 was not realized and it is necessary many previous agreements get operational by concentrated and continuous efforts as well as by the role the two countries’ private sector institutes and foundations can play. The subjects of cooperation of the two countries are wide and numerous and maybe this matter led to ratification of over 14 documents by both countries during Dr.Rouhani’s trip to Moscow 4 years ago and the sides issued a joint statement which bore so much content and significance, the document was signed by both countries in 16 pages as a comprehensive strategic cooperation document which included a wide spectrum of cooperation, showing how the two countries can cooperate on joint issues like establishing peace and stability in the Middle East, energy sector, oil and gas, electricity production, land and sea transportation, countering terrorism, border cooperation, the Caspian Sea Status of Rights, developments in Central and West Asia, and other areas. Therefore, because of this significant event in the mutual relations, it is urgent that objective and tangible measures be taken to operationalize the previous agreements to achieve new practical agreements without mere slogans and offering exaggerated figures.
With Dr.Raisi wining the 13th presidential elections and him announcing his foreign policy based on full expansion of relations with neighbors, and regional balance and stability, we have been witnessing considerable movements in relations along with strong resolve to expand full direct relations, and no doubt the president’s trip to the Russian Federation, at this crucial historical moment at the same time with continuation of nuclear negotiations in Vienna, is of double importance and there are various grounds for promotion of mutual cooperation, because both countries have elements of balance which can be tapped into in cooperation. These elements like Iran’s influence in the Muslim world, Russia’s international status, Russia’s veto at UNSC, both countries’ unhappiness with some western approaches towards human rights, and both countries’ resolve in playing roles by the organizations, and international law, especially at the UN, can play a major role in Tehran-Moscow relations.
Generally, there are various points of view about Tehran – Moscow relations. Some of these viewpoints are pointed towards the two countries old relations. Some are directed towards the status quo of the relations, and a number of them are focused on the landscape of the relations. One major topic which has had a considerable leap and growth is the issue of cooperation in the thinking rooms, universities and scientific circles, and we have been witnessing in recent years that the presence of Iranian students in Russian scientific centers has considerably grown. At the same time, other interactions between the two countries, especially in the tourism sector, have had a remarkable growth. Besides, expansion of relations in various areas of public diplomacy such as sports, media, NGOs, documents and archives, knowledge-based companies and other areas can help expand ties and more convince the public opinion of the two countries along this path.
At this crucial juncture of the 13th administration trying to improve our country’s regional and international standing especially in countering west’s oppressive sanctions, which is aimed at improving the economic and welfare conditions of our people, it can be said that the conditions, capabilities and all other necessary grounds are ready for development from rivalry to friendship in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relations with Russia, and for maximum utilization of these conditions it is necessary that the following issues be more paid attention to:
A: Implementing the previous agreements including use of national currencies in transactions; complete cancellation of visa; creating a green customs corridor and so on, to create balance in the two countries’ transactions, and strengthening the private-sector’s role in the Iran-Russia transactions; creating the necessary infrastructures, especially in the transportation area, increasing the number of times exhibitions are held to introduce the two sides capabilities; addressing the issue of standards , quality and competition in transactions between Iran and Russia and the public diplomacy and optimized introduction of the two countries’ capacities and capabilities for upgrading cooperation on various arenas.
B: On the other dimension regarding the musts of mutual relations we can point to cooperation capacities in regional and international topics. Russia can tap into Iran’s capacity and potentials of cooperation in Central Asia. This region like vast regions of the Caucasus and Balkans, due to ethnic and national diversity, has frozen crises and any time these crises can erupt. In this between, foreign powers sometimes use this to leverage Russia and other countries. On another dimension, Iran and Russia have effective cooperation in Syria and can continue this trend despite the complexities, because both countries are concerned about regional terrorism and extremist Takfiri groups that pose a potential danger for both countries. Thus, the two countries’ cooperation could be effective.
C:Bot hsides’ effective cooperation can also be in the inner Eurasia sphere and in regulating the oil market and preserving oil and energy price level, along with activation of important transit corridors.
D: Considering the continuation of excessive demands of the US and some European countries, and the reality that both countries on the international level are discontented about double standards in human rights, terrorism, and the role-playing of the UN in various subjects. The two countries’ cooperation can create new opportunities in international issues.
E: Another pressing matter is strengthening our country’s representatives in Russia with appropriate facilities and man force capable of good relations and even setting up several representatives in St. Petersburg, and the Muslim republics, which have great unique potentials. Meanwhile, appointing a consul general for the Tatarstan republic which is of high capacities for cooperation and for six years now has been administered by a temporary and acting officer is a pressing issue.
Ali Beman Eghbalizarch, Senior Expert of European Studies
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)