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Iran-Russia Relations and Existing Circumstances

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Interview with Dr. Mehdi Sanaei

Active ImageGiven the double standard applied by Russia to its diplomatic relations with various countries, especially its duplicity in relations with Iran and the United States, and also due to noncompliance of Russia with its commitments toward Iran, experts have both warned Moscow and called on the Iranian government to revise diplomatic relations with Russia.

This issue has been discussed with Dr. Mehdi Sanaei, professor of University of Tehran and member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, in the following interview.

Q: Recent measures taken by our northern neighbor have opened a new chapter in Iran-Russia relations. What is your opinion about present conditions?

A: Russia’s cooperation with Iran under present critical circumstances will not only serve as an important determinant of bilateral relations, but also influence future international equations. Independent countries are growing in power and new players have entered international political scene. Therefore, the existing structure of the United Nations Security Council and international relations, which has led to dominance of a hegemonic system on the world, cannot provide solutions to all problems as that structure was suitable for conditions of past decades and is no good for a modern world. For example, crises in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be solved within that framework. Many countries have owned up to this weakness and even the US President has stated that the United States will not tackle all international problems single-handedly as it is not able to solve all of them alone.

Therefore, five permanent members of the Security Council are not able to solve international issues on their own and they should not only respect the will of other countries, but also take advantage of their potentials in international relations. The recent Tehran meeting, which introduced Turkey and Brazil as new variables to Iran’s nuclear case, meant to tell the world that there are many independent players which are willing to do their part in international relations and the way should be paved for them. Russia is now at a crossroads. There are two eagles in the national symbol of Russia which connote that Russia simultaneously looks to the east and the west.

Russia owes its power to its position between east and west. Therefore, anytime looking to the west has dominated the Russian policy the country has forfeited part of its international political clout. Cooperation between Russia and Iran is a very determining factor for both countries’ policies and the Islamic Republic expects Russia to cooperate with it in international scene. On the other hand, those relations are also of high importance to Russia. There are two possible scenarios to be followed here. Firstly, the rift between independent countries and big powers will not widen anymore, but the big powers will accept to make structural changes to international system and avail themselves of potentialities of independent states in solving international problems. In this state, Russia’s friendly relations with Iran and the Muslim world will increase its weight in international power game. The second possibility is that the aforesaid rift will further widen in which case geo-strategic position and identity of Russia will not allow the country to become too inclined toward the west.

All in all, it is very important for Russia to act in a balanced way in its foreign relations and policy. Just in the same way that cooperation between Iran and Russia has promoted both countries’ positions in international scene, it can continue on the same track without being affected by various external factors. It is true that Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States have changed and those countries are trying to attract Russia as a strategic partner to put pressure on Iran. Of course, pressures exerted on Russia by the Zionist and other internal lobbies should not be ignored. None of those factors, however, obviate the need for Russia to have friendly relations with Iran as it is to its own interest to have independent states on its side.

Q: Unfortunately, Iran has indicated its dependence on Russia and supported that country’s international positions and performance in an exaggerated way during recent years as a counterweight to the west. Don’t you think that such behavior has spoiled Russians prompting them to ignore their commitments toward Iran including commissioning of Bushehr nuclear power plant or delivery of S-300 missile system? They have also completely ignored Iran’s part in the legal regime of the Caspian Sea.

A: Like other countries, there is no doubt that Russia gives the highest priority to its own national interests. The Russians also want to have maximum level of relations with other states. This is also true about us. Two points should be born in mind here. Firstly, a win-win game should be defined in international relations by strengthening foreign policy leverages. Many Russia experts have noted that in its relations with Russia, Iran should take advantage of various leverages as well as regional and international issues. Part of the problem is rooted in our foreign policy apparatus. We should not make other countries think that we desperately need to work with them. Having more leverage to use under such circumstances will be of great help in this regard. Russia is a big country in the region and cooperation between Tehran and Moscow has been not only to the avail of both countries, but also beneficial to the settlement of international disputes.

Q: To what extent interactions with Russia have been a function of Iran’s maximum interests, not out of coercion?

A: Relations with Russia have been influenced by our foreign policy goals. Some anti-west politicians encourage Russian ties while others, opposed them as they damaged Iran’s relations with the west. Different viewpoints govern the two countries’ attitudes. The Russian foreign policy seeks to promote international standing of that country, which is also an objective for Iran’s foreign policy. However, Russian foreign policy is also pragmatic and interest-based and this has been frequently announced by the Russian foreign policymakers.

Perhaps, some ambiguity surrounding Iran’s relations with Russia stems from different perceptions which shape each side of this relationship. Here, some politicians still think that Russia is a superpower and see Moscow in the context of the Cold War. This is not true. Although Russia is still of great weight in international developments, its capacities are very limited. There has been another group which encourages relations with the west because it considers Russia a country riddled with domestic problems. This is also an erroneous analysis because Russia has banked on energy policy and taken various measures to improve its international standing during the past decade. Part of this ambiguity is, perhaps, the result of different perceptions in two countries. While relations with Russia have been considered strategic in Iran during the past decade, no Russian analyst has ever considered their country’s relations with Iran strategic.

Q: The History of Iran abounds with bitter memories of Russia including imposition of Turkmenchai and Golestan treaties on Iran which led to separation of peripheral lands. There is also bitter memory of Russia’s invasion of Iran during World War II. Don’t you think that existing conditions have once more elicited past memories. How Russia will suffer after losing a strategic ally?

A: Given the importance of bilateral relations and Iranian’s mentality of past relations with Russia and in view of future international political equations, Russia is expected to speed up implementation of projects it has undertaken in Iran in order to build confidence. Relations between two countries are of critical importance and it is needed for the sake of confidence building that Russia complete Bushehr nuclear power plant as soon as possible and have no doubt about delivery of S-300 missile defense system since the related contract has been already signed. In nuclear case, it should not leave Iran and independent countries alone and while maintaining relations with both sides, it should use its influence for peaceful settlement of this issue.

Q: Since Russia and the west have reached an agreement on economic issues, do you think that such a will exists in Russia?

A: I hope so. Not only due to importance of bilateral relations, but careful study of forthcoming international developments also dictates that Russia will need to have Iran on its side.

Source: Tabnak News Website
Translated By: Iran Review

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