Eurasianism, Iran, and Russia’s Foreign Policy
Monday, April 30, 2012
Interview with Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin
By: Zeinab Najafi
Iran and Eurasia Research Center (IRAS): Eurasianism is a well-known theory in Russia’s foreign policy which has determined Moscow’s approaches and behaviors in this region since a long time ago. While emphasizing on distinct identity of Russia from other Western and Eastern countries, advocates of this theory stress that Moscow should take independent positions on international issues and build its relations with Eastern and Western states on the basis of that independent identity. They also support promotion of relations with various Middle Eastern countries, including Iran. IRAS has discussed this theory and Iran's status in it in the following interview with Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin, the Russian politician and leader of “International Eurasia Movement” in that country.
Q: What is the exact meaning of Eurasianism in the Russian foreign policy?
A: Eurasianism is a political philosophy which has three external, median, and internal levels. At external level, it says that the world is a multipolar world. This means that there are many centers of decision-making in the world one of which is Eurasia. Eurasia does not simply denote Russia, but also includes former republics of the Soviet Union. At the median level, it denotes convergence among former republics of the Soviet Union to form a transnational model (which includes various states). At internal and domestic level it seeks to construct a political community which is discussed in terms of its relation to citizenship rights as well as liberal and nationalist models. These are three levels of Eurasianism which shape a certain foreign policy which is different from globalization, unipolar world, nationalism, imperialism, and liberalism. Therefore, Eurasianism, on the whole, is a unique model of foreign policy.
Q: What is the status of the Islamic Republic of Iran in your Eurasianism theory?
A: Iran plays a key role in Eurasianism theory which sees the world as a multipolar system. After the Islamic Revolution and given the country’s strategic position, Iran has been included in equations that aim to create an independent atmosphere of Eurasianism. If there were conflicts between Iran and Russia in past centuries and they tried to solve their problems through war, today, they only look for peaceful and strategic alliance as a solution to their problems. I mean, Moscow and Tehran are now solving problems which they previously could not solve even by recourse to military force. Our interests totally overlap from a strategic viewpoint. This trend can only be realized through strategic alliance, not simple convergence. Iran is not included in Eurasian convergence model because only former republics of the Soviet Union are included in it. Iran has its own special civilization and is a powerful and independent country which should be respected. That alliance should be protected. We must not simply think about convergence with Iran. Iran does not fit into convergence model of Eurasianism, but it is a partner for Russia in a multipolar world. Our strategic interests in the Central Asia and, on the whole, in the entire region overlap. Therefore, Iran enjoys a pivotal role in the model of multipolar eurasianism and, in this model Tehran is the closest ally of Moscow. Of course, the model also envisages partnership with Turkey, China, and India.
Q: What is your opinion about Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy and Iran's status in it? Do you think that relations between Iran and Russia will be any different under Putin than they were under his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev?
A: Vladimir Putin’s policy is actually midway between Eurasian multipolarism and US unipolarism and he does not pursue simple Eurasianism, or Atlanticism, or a solely unipolar model. In fact, Putin has no decision to either pursue multipolarism or Eurasianism. However, if he pursues a solely or extremely unipolar or Atlantistic approach, he will lose legitimacy in the Russian society. Therefore, one may say that Putin’s position will be midway between unipolarism and multipolarism. As for his difference with Medvedev, we must pay attention to the concept of gradient which does not mean a clear difference in direction. For example, there will be a maximum of 15-20 degrees of relative difference between Putin and Medvedev. I mean, Putin will be more inclined toward Eurasianism and multipolarism than Medvedev and will hit a balance between the two tendencies. Therefore, we are talking about relative change, not change of direction.
Q: Considering recent ups and downs in Iran's relations with Russia and various pressures and sanctions imposed on Iran by the Western countries, how do you see the outlook of cooperation between the two states?
A: Everything will depend on the formula that I explained here. If Russia adopts a totally multipolar position, then it should work to break sanctions against Iran, which is not the case. Russia, however, will not cease its efforts to reduce sanctions against Iran. Therefore, Russia is sure to help Iran weather sanctions, but in an indirect and non-radical manner. We are currently discussing how to oppose banking and economic sanctions in our Eurasian system and this is not a low-level effort, but enjoys direct support of Putin. We are talking about unilateral sanctions that Russia has not accepted. We in the Russian Foreign Ministry have talked to Moscow’s plenipotentiary representative in Asian affairs. They are under direct orders from Kremlin not to obey sanctions that Russia has rejected and, on the opposite, expand economic relations with Iran. This is official stance of Kremlin. Of course, Russian banks are independent of the government and Kremlin and are also affiliated to international centers. We must note that any banking transaction with Iran will immediately come under the US sanctions. Therefore, Russian banks have more limited latitude for interacting with Iran. Russia, however, will not totally give up its position on Iran and will never sever its relations with either Iran or the West.
Q: What is your analysis of Russia’s basic positions on US sanctions and threats against Iran in view of recent positions taken by Putin and the latest remarks of Medvedev in opposing West’s military attack on Iran?
A: Russia categorically opposes any military strike against Iran by the West and in line with this policy Moscow has also lent support to Syria and will continue to protect Iran's strategic interests to the end. This is a very important issue because a possible military attack on Iran will also threaten Russia’s security borders.
Q: How close are Iran's and Russia’s regional positions on Syria and what measures have been thought of by the two countries in order to protect their common Iranian – Russian interests in the region?
A: Iran and Russia have totally similar stances on Syria because an attack on Syria will be an attack on the national interests of Iran and Russia. Therefore, it is natural for the two countries’ positions on this issue to be close. Another issue is that the Iranian government should take the best advantage of the existing conditions to bolster its ties to Russia. Subjective and objectives conditions for understanding the situation of Iran exist and subjective conditions are even ideal. Iran, on the other hand, is expected to increase its support. Of course, when it comes to war and military strike, the rules change. Russia’s nuclear leverage is very important here and should be supported. Therefore, while protecting their common Russian and Iranian interests in the region, Tehran and Moscow should achieve a form of complete strategic alliance. Economic and military cooperation should also be realized and expanded. Iran and Russia should expand relations with Turkey, China and India in order to forge a powerful lobbying force against the United States. In the meantime, we must not forget about the soft war. The United States is taking good advantage of this means and has established extensive interactions with many countries. Our youth use their websites while we lag behind in this field. Making films, writing books, translation and so forth are major fields which need our more serious attention.
Q: What is Russia’s position on Turkey’s new policy to increase cooperation with the West and the Arab League against Syria, Iraq, and Iran?
A: Russia’s position on the Arab League and certain member states, including such Arab countries as Saudi Arabia and Qatar has been traditionally averse. These are countries which were supported by the Soviet Union, but big Arab countries are generally our traditional adversaries and this process has not changed in the course of time. Positions taken by the Arab League are by no means interesting. As for Turkey, the country is taking more complicated stances. Let’s not forget that Turkey is under the influence of the United States, on the one hand, while its nationalistic interests do not overlap with common interests of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States, on the other hand. Russia’s relations with Turkey are generally good and will further improve. Therefore, Turkey’s positions on many issues are quite similar to that of Russia. Turkey is located in the Islamic world, on the one side, and neighbors the West, on the other side. As a result of this intermediate position, Turkey considers itself a Eurasian country. The Eurasian nature of Russia and Turkey is a factor for closeness between them. Of course, this is only limited to some issues. For example, why Medvedev voted for sanctions against Libya? Because it was in favor of both the West and Eurasia. In fact, Russia’s position is relative and based on expediencies. Turkey’s position (on Syria) is not directly in favor of Eurasia and has been somehow modified. Therefore, its position on Syria is the opposite of Moscow’s position. Moscow supports (the Syrian President) Bashar Assad and this can be considered Russia’s basic policy on this issue.
Key Words: Eurasianism, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Russia’s Foreign Policy, Sanctions, Dugin
Source: Iran and Eurasia Research Center (IRAS)
Translated By: Iran Review