Russia-Iran relations: rapprochement of “hedgehogs”

Kenan Aslanli

Abstract


The paper examines the entanglement in Russia-Iran bilateral relations identifying traditional rivalries in the particular geographical areas (e.g. Caspian Sea and Middle East) and economic sectors (e.g. global oil market). It also analyses rapprochement between two countries after the lifting-up of sanctions against Iran in 2015 and the geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East. The primary hypothesis of the paper is that despite very tense high-level consultations, the efforts made to coordinate the respective steps in the Middle East, and increasing bilateral trade turnover; deep controversies and impediments in the Russian-Iranian relations make it difficult to qualify these relations as “strategic.”

Russia’s policy towards the Middle East and Iran is very “rational, flexible and pragmatic” (“Primakov doctrine”), and can be explained only through realist understanding where Russia seeks opportunities to increase its regional power even using military capabilities. When we construct theoretically the paradigm of Iranian-Russian relations the fact should be taken into consideration that not only Russia, but both countries mutually acts with high flexibility and pragmatism. It is more relevant to qualify Russia-Iran relations as “watchful partnership” without the sense of superiority rather than “strategic partnership.” Reliance on “anti-Western” paradigm in bilateral relations doesn’t make these relationship “strategic” because the changing attitudes of West towards any of these two countries can drastically modify Russia-Iran relations.


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