Russia Bracing for Multipolar International System

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri
Faculty Member, University of Tehran

Following the tug of war between the West and Russia during the 2014 crisis over the Crimea Peninsula, which ended in Russia’s firm response and annexation of the peninsula, Western countries tried through imposition of sanctions to isolate Russia and mount pressure on the country. However, they ignored the point that this northern bear has awakened from its long hibernation and cannot be put in chains again easily. Therefore, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been able to bolster national pride of his people by showing firmness in the case of Ukraine and increase domestic support for his government, is currently trying to play a more active role in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, to both expand his sphere of influence and block unrestrained advances of the West, topped by the United States. In doing this, we are now witness to Russia playing an active role in the Syrian crisis.

Russia, which has been among the most important international supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been running a major marine base in the eastern part of Syria in Tartus port city, and is now trying to use the base in order to equip Syrian Air Force’s main base. By standing against the will of the Western countries for the removal of Bashar Assad from power, Russia has been able to make those countries give in to the will and vote of the Syrian people and has even conducted widespread consultations to bolster its own position. In line with this policy and in continuation of Russia’s diplomatic efforts over Syria, the Russian capital city of Moscow played host to heads of certain Arab states, including Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in late August. During these visits, in addition to strengthening bilateral relations, Russia has been trying to provide these countries with military aid and conclude economic agreements with them in order to gain their positive attitude and support for its own position on Syria. And in fact, Russia has been able to change the position of Egypt, which enjoys a valuable strategic position in North Africa, by convincing Cairo to support Bashar Assad staying in power.

Of course, this is not the end point of Russia’s rising influence in Africa. Moscow’s mediation in Sudan crisis and holding of a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Sudan, South Sudan and Russia on September 10 was among other transregional measures taken by Russia in order to play the role of a big power. Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have been tense over various issues since the independence of South Sudan. The most important factor that has intensified tension between the two countries is the issue of borders and division of oil resources. About three-fourths of the oil reserves of the former Sudan are now located in south Sudan, but pipelines used to export oil cross through Sudan. Under these conditions, Russia’s success in mediating the resolution of this four-year crisis can greatly boost the credit of this country in North Africa.

Russia’s agreement to sell military equipment to Afghanistan to fight the rising influence of ISIS has been among other measures taken by Moscow to fight terrorism and support regional countries against new threats, which is also a requisite and characteristic of big powers. On the whole, such measures show that Russia is trying to prove that in the existing global village, there are also other powers, which can help resolve global crises and problems. The point is that creation of such a competitive atmosphere at international level can entail many opportunities and threats for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Changing the unipolar atmosphere, led by the United States, to a multipolar and pluralistic atmosphere will pave the way for active measures to be taken by regional powers, including Iran, and will also boost the country’s bargaining and negotiating power.

Containing the United States’ policy of warmongering and threat and scaremongering, which it uses to achieve its goals and change the policies of other countries, is also another positive effect of this new multipolar world system, which will be also very beneficial to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, it should be noted that the time for having an absolute bipolar system in which each country would have to follow one of the eastern or western poles of power, has passed and under a multipolar international system, only regional cooperation and balanced relations with all powerful states can help countries meet their national interests. Therefore, the diplomatic apparatus of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not only taking advantage of the new conditions governing international relations to meet the country’s national interests, but is also improving and strengthening relations with all effective powers that are in line with the country’s national interests and expediencies while paying due attention to the principles of dignity, wisdom and expediency.

Key Words: Russia, Syria, Multipolar International System, United States’ Policy, Unipolar Atmosphere, Iran, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Mazaheri

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