Russia Looks After Its Own Interests First


By Hassan Beheshtipour

US Vice President Joe Biden left the Finnish capital of Helsinki on the evening Tuesday March 8 and headed for Moscow on the second of his European tour.

During his three-day stay in Russia, Biden sat down with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In a speech on Wednesday (March 9), the top US diplomat said Washington supports Medvedev’s policies to modernize his country as well as Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO.)

The Russian Kommersant newspaper wrote that the White has conditioned Russia’s WTO membership on the settlement of the Georgia issue as well as Moscow’s recognition of the country’s territorial integrity.

Over the past 17 years, Russia has taken part in extensive negotiations for entry into the WTO, but has failed to join the world body because of Washington’s opposition.

The US has used Russia’s WTO bid as a tool to pressure the Kremlin. Russia will get a chance to enter the WTO only when it makes a major concession to the US to make Washington give up its right of veto at the WTO.

Biden also voiced Washington’s support for the abrogation of the Jackson-Vanik Law, saying the White House believes such measures will trade ties between the two countries. Washington intends to help Russia ameliorate conditions for, and remove obstacles to investment in the country

The Jackson-Vanik amendment concerns restrictions in US-Russian economic cooperation passed by the US Congress back in 1971 in protest at the former Soviet Union preventing Jewish people from leaving the country. Two decades on since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emigration of many Jewish citizens from Russia, the law has not been repealed yet.

Given the deepening rifts between Moscow and Washington over issues such as Georgia, the deployment of a missile defense shield and NATO’s eastward expansion, Biden faced major problems in his meetings. By showing the green light, Biden is trying to paint a rosy picture of Moscow-Washington relations.

Russian and American officials are seeking to link Biden’s trip to negotiations on Moscow’s WTO bid, promotion of trade cooperation and missile issues. Nevertheless, the key questions which still remain include efforts to iron out the existing differences on those issues as well as coordinating policies on Iran and Afghanistan.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks during a meeting with her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski some days ago, regarding Washington’s determination to deploy missile base fitted with F16 fighter planes in Poland signaled tension in White House ties with Kremlin. The remarks seriously disappointed Moscow and the Russian foreign minister reacted by saying, should the US missile base in Eastern Europe threaten Russia’s security, the country would unilaterally ditch its START II agreement with Washington.

When in Moscow, Joe Biden tried to resolve problems between the two countries regarding South Caucasus, especially Georgia. He also tried to broach the issue of NATO’s expansion towards Georgia with Russian officials as a serious obstacle in the relations. The talks may have also covered the newly-proposed approaches to the missile defense shield plan.

Afghanistan, Russia’s cooperation with NATO and the continuation of Moscow’s logistical support for Washington in the war-torn country also created complications for Russia as it provides the assistance despite having been under pressure from the US and its allies for years for having occupied Afghanistan itself.

The US and Russia discussing their ties and whether they would affect or be influenced by Moscow’s ties with Tehran, in light of the fact that Russia has found it more beneficial over the past year to distance itself from Iran and gravitate towards the US, raised the question in Iranian political circles whether Moscow would ignore relations with Tehran to earn American capital and technology?”

When responding to this important question, one should say that the Russia-US ties are undoubtedly on the mend. The improvement rapidly increased after Barack Obama’s election. Biden is also trying to follow up on the issues discussed by the two presidents with diligence. At the same time degradation is visible in the nearly four century old Iran-Russia relations.

The US ties with Iran have also been tense and cold over the past 30 years. A deep understanding of the triangle formed in the Russia-US-Iran relations as well as the US-Iran ties requires analyzing multiple components.

Firstly, Russia’s relations with Iran have experienced unforeseeable ups and downs during the past years. They, however, have come over the past two years under the influence of new factors, which cannot be overlooked, namely a relative improvement in Moscow’s ties with Washington.

The second factor, which should be noted regarding the Russia-Iran ties is Washington’s influence on them. We can only pass a judgment on the Russia-US-Iran ties, when we determine the elements, which influence Iran’s relations with Russia and secondly the ones, which influence Russia’s relations with the US.

Third are the determining and influential elements in the Iran-US relations, which in turn affect Moscow’s relations with Washington. In other words, the three factors are not linked to one another, but are influential on one another. Iran has in effect had no relations with the US since the victory of the Islamic Revolution and has been in dispute but has been in dispute and in conflict. Hence, Moscow’s ability to control US behavior has become important for Iran.

In recent years, analysis of Russia and US behavior towards Iran has been mostly influenced by emotions.

This is while we should not let emotions affect our thoughts if we seek to accurately analyze what has taken place. In other words, we should not for instance analyze the countries’ behavior like that of the people. I.e. saying on one occasion that the US and Russia have become close and hence alienated from Iran and on the other that Iran and Russia have gravitated towards one another and accordingly Russia has had sought to avoid the US or saying corner Iran through befriending Tehran.

Such analysis is considered the emotional analyses of international relations. Because countries are permanent enemies of each other and they are not willing to forge permanent friendships with one another. They mostly consider their own interests. Therefore, one can say Russia puts its interests first in its relations with Iran and the US; just as the US considers its interests first in its relations with Iran and Russia. Naturally, this is how Iran is towards the US and Russia.

At times these interests may be aligned with one another and at times they may be contradicting. At times the animosity between countries is a technical matter, meaning they are short-term and in defined timeframes, and at times they are long-term and strategic.

The US has problems with Iran on several issues but on issues such as the ouster of the Taliban and the creation of a government and security in Afghanistan they have common interests. The case is the same with Russia. But in the case of Russia there are no strategic animosities but at some points they have opposing interests, for example in Central Asia and the Caucasus where the two compete. Russia does not like to see an Iranian presence in the Republic of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia and views Iran as a rival.

But Russia’s policies stipulate a form of cooperation with Iran. In Central Asia Iran has rivalry with Russia. Especially regarding Islamic issues where Russia is concerned. Islamic tendencies are strengthened through Iran in the region. Russia considers this as a threat to its interests. Therefore Iran cannot be unaware of developments between Russia and the US.

If we analyze our relations with Russia based on our interests instead of our emotions we will come to the conclusion that in the current climate where the Russians at times prefer to side with the US and were thereby forced to reduce ties with Iran for technical purposes on a short-term basis but this does not mean that they have given up on their relations with Iran. Iran and Russia need each other. Meaning, in their relations both Iran needs Russia and Russia needs Iran.

The facts of the region and international community show that Iran needs Russia and Russia needs Iran. But this doesn’t mean they need each other equally. The relationship between Iran and Russia are shaped based on the framework of regional issues. But Russia’s ties with the US are founded upon global issues and their interests on an international level.

Once it was clear that the US was not able to fulfill its role in the international community as a hegemonic power the balance of power shifted from single-hegemony toward regional hegemony. Changes in the global establishment, bilateral relations between the US and Russia can change the bilateral ties between Iran and Russia and can cause Russia to vote against Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities at the United Nations Security Council.

One must consider that the relationship between the US and Russia is most influential in the international level as both poses nuclear weapons and the world would be affected by any animosity between the two.

Therefore, Russia’s behavior toward Iran is not solely based on its relations with the US; its interests are the most important factor.

Therefore, to properly analyze Russia-Iran relations following Joe Biden’s visit to Moscow we must put into consideration that Russia basis its relations with Russia on competition and resistance. Wherever Russia has clout it will try to use it in the competition with the US.

On numerous occasions we have seen Russians and the Chinese resisting the US but in places where their interests were at stake they withdrew their resistance. In some places they have chosen to compete with the US. This is a form of Russian pragmatism found in their foreign policies and Lavrov has stated on numerous occasions that the Russian foreign policy will be based on national interests after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a known fact. Therefore, the Russians practice a form of controlled resistance towards the demands of the US.

Press TV

Press TV is a state funded news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran and seeks to counter a western view on news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *