Mahmoud Shoori

A Fresh Approach to the Future of Iran-Russia Relations

Date of publication : July 16, 2017 23:17 pm
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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov (R) at the guest house of Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, Russia on April 14, 2017

Russians’ view of Iran is not the same as that of Iranian on Russians, because Russia’s presence in the Iranian history is strong and determining, but the presence of Iran in the Russian history is not very strong. For this reason, the Russian people were not historically faced with the issue of Iran to have any historical judgment about it. But the Iranian people have been facing with a country called Russia/ the Soviet Union for nearly two centuries. That is why the kind of people’s view on the other’s country is a decisive factor in the history of relations between the two countries.
 
However, in terms of governance, the role of people and the impact of public opinion on these relationships, at some times, may have decreased or increased. What has happened, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is that the issue of Russia has become a subject discussed in public opinion, which is, of course, a newer issue in the history of relations between the two countries. These historical stereotypes in the minds of people in different countries may always be decisive in developing relations between countries.
 
Despite such stereotypes, Iran and Russia will still need each other in the foreseeable future. Iran should continue to consult and cooperate with Russia at the regional level. At least in the next four years, the regional issues are still of the nature that will inevitably make Iran and Russia cooperate with each other. But in the field of economic cooperation, unfortunately, we cannot be very optimistic about a dramatic change in the economic relations between the two countries.
 
I do not think that any special event would happen to turn the two countries into each other’s economic partner. Though, there are some areas. However, in discussions on the North- South Corridor, Iran and Russia could have collaborated much more. Or, in the energy field, they can cooperate. I think, if we want to see a positive change in the relations between Iran and Russia, we should define a sphere of strategic economic cooperation for ourselves. We have economic cooperation, and this cooperation may change quantitatively, but it will not change qualitatively.
 
In terms of strategic economic cooperation, we could not yet define a new area to cooperate with each other after the end of the Bushehr nuclear power plant project. This project was a technical and technological economic cooperation between the two countries, but it could bind Iran and Russia for years, and did not allow them to distance from each other. However, now the construction of phases two and three of the Bushehr nuclear power plant will not serve such a purpose in relations between the two countries; that is, it will not become a strategic economic partnership, unless we create a link between transit and trade routes - the Russians can consider Iran in some of their connecting roads or their energy exports, or a kind of energy cooperation can develop between Iran and Russia.
 
Even Russia could have played the role of a guarantor in discussions on Iran- Pakistan- India peace pipeline, for India or Pakistan, however, were worried that at some point the pipeline could be used as a political tool, and Russia could have guaranteed that it would always supply gas with the help of Iran. Or perhaps we could have defined other pipelines alongside the TAPI which is still an unclear project.
 
Only if Iran and Russia take this path, can we see significant relations developing between the two countries.

 
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Mahmoud Shoori, head of Eurasia Program at Center for Strategic Research (CSR), is the senior fellow at IRAS.
 
 
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Author : Mahmoud Shoori