Think Tank
Russia and Iran at the Crossroads: From Short-Term Benefits to Long-Term Partnership
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On February 15, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion in partnership with the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), dedicated to relations between Russia and Iran in the face of confrontation with the West.

The discussion moderator from the Russian side, Andrey Sushentsov, programme director of the Valdai Club, noted that now Russian-Iranian relations are on the rise amid a security crisis in Europe. He added that Moscow sees the 21st century as a century where Eurasia will be strong, in which the largest countries of the region, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran, should play a primary role. Iranian moderator Khalil Shirgholami, vice president of research at IPIS, in turn stressed that Russia and Iran share common interests and that the two countries have continued to strengthen their relationship.

IPIS senior expert Manouchehr Moradi said that Iran and Russia are now cooperating closely on a number of issues of mutual interest. He pointed to the particular importance of military cooperation, which, in his opinion, is being deepened by the Ukrainian conflict. He stressed that Iran considers the Russian military operation in Ukraine as a legitimate way to ensure the interests and security of Russia, but at the same time has called for the parties to cease hostilities and start negotiations. As a result, a number of Western governments are using Iran’s position as a pretext for propaganda and imposing new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Moradi said.

Alexander Maryasov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Iran (2001-2005), compared the policy of the West towards Russia and Iran, noting that both countries are experiencing increasing military, political and economic pressure from the West. “Under these conditions, Moscow and Iran are making efforts to develop relations with countries that do not accept Western dictates,” the ambassador said. “The emerging geopolitical realities also create objective prerequisites for rapprochement between Moscow and Tehran.” He pointed to the expansion of bilateral economic cooperation and the development of many joint projects, first of all in the energy sector, as well as the potential usefulness of Iran’s experience in import substitution and overcoming sanctions for Russia. Russia, in turn, is actively assisting Iran in its exit from economic and political isolation.

Alireza Miryousefi, Head of the IPIS Research Group on International Affairs, devoted his speech to the regional dynamics in the Middle East. He considers Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue to be the key destructive factor. He also called the Yemeni problem very important. He went on to note a number of positive trends in regional dynamics, particularly those related to the negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as between Iran and Yemen, and the partial withdrawal of American troops from the region. He described Iran’s policy as an effort to create an inclusive common security system in the region.

Adlan Margoev, a research fellow at MGIMO University, spoke about the desired future of Russian-Iranian relations. In this context, he considers it important to move from relations based on opportunistic factors to the realisation of deep interests and the development of good neighbourly relations, regardless of external circumstances. “The Russian interest, in simple terms, is that countries on our perimeter, in particular, our southern neighbour Iran, should be doing well. Therefore, if sanctions are lifted from Iran due to the restoration of the JCPOA, it will be in Russia’s favour,” he believes. According to Margoev, in general a long-term partnership is important for both sides, which requires the building of moderate and realistic expectations in matters of economic cooperation.

Member of the IPIS Scientific Council Davud Keyani pointed to the understanding by Iranian experts of the need to obtain Russian support in matters related to negotiations on nuclear issues, especially against the backdrop of undermined confidence in America due to the JCPOA debate. According to him, this helps strengthen sympathy for Russia in expert circles. In addition, the two countries are facing a unique situation that suggests that they need each other. This can become a factor in the development of cooperation, as evidenced by the unprecedented growth of Russian-Iranian trade turnover. “We are now at a very important crossroads,” he concluded.