Formation of the EAEU-Iran Free Trade Zone is not only feasible, it is a promising project. Russia and Belarus are very much interested in exports of high-tech products, and Iran is one of their potential and serious consumers.
But they need to keep in mind that rivals of the EAEU have a wide range of tools to press on Iran, who, after having a full taste of economic sanctions, seems to be taking a more collaborative stance for the West.
The EU and the US have vowed economic cooperation to Iran. The said players have both carrots and sticks in stock for Iran. Unsurprisingly, Iran's closest neighbor Syria has been war-torn by West-backed militants for several years, and one of their goals in unseating Bashar al-Assad is to close in on Iran.
The events around Yemen related to consolidation of Sunni states (under US control) in a fight against Houthi Shia militants is part of an effort to confront Shia-aligned Iran.
Consideration must also be given to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries of Central Asia (except Tajikistan) and most Russian Turkic-language autonomies, not to mention Turkey, where Sunnis have firm positions and may hinder development of relations between the EAEU and Iran. However, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, for instance, is doing his utmost to encourage the Eurasian Union to develop relations with Turkey and Iran.
Sanctions have entailed ill ramifications in the economy of Iran. Export income has tumbled. I suppose Iran, having outlasted the sanctions, would be more interested in cooperation with China as a promising and convenient patron in the region, as Iranian authorities reckon. Yet, Iranian authorities are also interested in developing relations with Kazakhstan and Russia, its most perspective partners in both cultural and political terms.
I believe that close ties between the Iranian elite and Russia and China within the framework of the EAEU and the SCO would transform Iran into a real economic leader of the Middle East and Asia Minor.
Sadly, I have not seen the Iranian president at the May 9 parade in Moscow. It demonstrates that Iranian authorities have, on the one hand, ambiguous understanding of prospects and, on the other hand, may have some exclusive behind-the-stage commitments to the West.
I point out that Israel's leader Netanyahu was also absent in Moscow on May 9. It appears that Netanyahu does not view Russia as a priority partner. In this regard, rapprochement of the EAEU and Iran would hardly deteriorate relations between Russia and Israel because Russia, as before, will be interested in cooperating with Israel, regarding these relations as essential, while Israel, as before, will continue orienting its policy primarily towards the US.
Concerning Europe's position (not only in terms of the Russia-Iran relations or its attitude towards the EAEU but on many other foreign political issues), after imposing economic sanctions on Russia, univocally backing the Banderite coup d'etat in Ukraine and other unfriendly acts towards our country, the opinion of European functionaries is of little interest to Russian diplomats and politicians.
Europe has put itself into a position forcing Russia to seek new and actually sovereign and reliable allies, partners.
A set of factors needs to be considered, for example, the problem of the Russia-Azerbaijan relations after possible integration Iran into the EAEU. For the aforementioned and other reasons, it is a lot more beneficial to admit Turkey for balance to the Iran-supported economic bloc.
Overall, I see the future of the EAEU and the competitive potential of the bloc in the unification of the three key Eurasian players – Russia, Turkey and Iran – under the most direct and active mediation of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. In that case, the EAEU would have no reasons to fear Western economic sanctions, the expansion of NATO eastward or any other globalist or Russophobic challenges.
Vladimir Lepekhin is Director General of the EurAsEC Institute, and a member of the bureau of the Scientific Council on Eurasian Economic Integration, Modernization, Competitiveness and Sustainable Developmentt at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.