Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, embarked on a journey to Moscow, leading a high level political and economic delegation. This trip is undertaken following the invitation from President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Marking his second sojourn to Russia to further bilateral discourse, President Raisi’s initial visit occurred in Moscow on the 19th of January, 2022, preceding the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, where he engaged in extensive discussions with his Russian counerpart at the Kremlin.
The Iranian president’s itinerary in this one-day visit predominantly includes deliberations on enhancing economic ties and addressing pressing regional and global dilemmas, most notably the situation in Palestine and recent events in Gaza.
On October 16th, in a telephonic dialogue, the leaders of Iran and Russia deliberated over various aspects of bilateral partnerships, alongside regional and international subjects.
In recent years, Iran and Russia have exerted concerted efforts to fortify their relations, with a primary concentration on the political and economic spheres. Nonetheless, indications suggest a disparity in the maturation of these sectors; despite a pronounced political inclination, the expansion of economic ties has not paralleled in magnitude.
Throughout the previous eight years, numerous accords have been established to underpin the economic synergy between Iran and Russia. Nevertheless, data reveals that the economic rapport between the nations remains modest, not exceeding 2 billion dollars. The economic engagement between Iran and Russia for the first eight months of the Iranian calendar year 1402 (spanning from March 21st to November 21st, 2023) amounted to a mere 1.7 billion dollars.
The presidential delegation’s tour to Moscow stands to yield multifaceted benefits, thereby augmenting bilateral, regional, and international collaboration. It is anticipated that during the Iranian President’s visit to Russia, while the enhancement of regional and global partnerships is pivotal, a significant emphasis will be placed upon the cultivation of bilateral economic cooperation.
Over recent years, the consensus on executing collaborative projects, particularly within transportation and energy sectors, has been paramount. Despite this, commercial ties continue to encounter numerous challenges.
In an extension of this diplomatic momentum, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian traveled to Moscow on Tuesday to engage in a summit with his counterparts from states adjoining the Caspian Sea. Therein, the foreign ministers of Iran and Russia endorsed a bilateral declaration outlining strategies to mitigate the US and Western sanctions. This proclamation is denoted as the “Declaration of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the strategies to counteract, diminish, and offset the adverse impacts of unilateral coercive actions.” The Iranian Foreign Minister commented on the signed document with Russia, highlighting that Iran, three years prior, had suggested the formation of a coalition dedicated to combating unilateral US or Western-imposed sanctions methodically and effectively. This document signed in Moscow aligns with that proposition.
Key elements of the joint declaration between Iran and Russia include:
- The unilateral imposition of coercive measures by any state is deemed illegitimate and violates the United Nations Charter.
- Assets, whether public or private, encompassing bank deposits, securities, real estate, and consular as well as diplomatic premises, are to be safeguarded from such actions.
- The state instigating economic or financial harm through unilateral coercive measures bears the primary liability for recompense.
- Russia and Iran are tasked with formulating a strategic plan to mitigate the influence of international commerce on their respective national currencies.
The recent accord centered on navigating sanctions arises amidst persistent and significant challenges in the dialogue between Iranian and Russian officials, particularly concerning the obstructions within the banking sector. This issue, alongside the endeavor to diversify Iranian export goods to the Russian market, remains a prominent topic of ongoing discussions between the two nations.
Nonetheless, the substantial joint ventures embarked upon by Iran and Russia warrant recognition; notably, the advancement of the Bushehr nuclear power plant’s second and third phases, the construction initiatives of the Rasht-Astara railway as part of the North-South corridor, and the procurement of Sukhoi 35 fighters all represent significant, yet incomplete, bilateral agreements.
Over the previous year, Tehran and Moscow have manifested a considerable interest in enhancing their military-security alliance through both arms trade and collaborative technical and training initiatives. These domains are anticipated to constitute additional focal points of the discourse between the Iranian and Russian presidents in Moscow.
However, overshadowing the bilateral ties is the pattern of delays exhibited by the Russians in honor of their commitments, which has not only fostered a sense of skepticism within public opinion toward Russia but also emerged as an area of concern for the Iranian government. Future agreements will likely necessitate more robust guarantees to mitigate such apprehensions.
The timing of the Iranian president’s visit coincides with President Putin’s recent consultations with the leaders of Iran’s neighboring Persian Gulf states during a succinct one-day voyage to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
In the UAE, President Putin engaged in discussions with President Mohammed bin Zayed on expanding bilateral cooperation and shared regional interests. In 2022, the business transactions between Russia and the UAE amounted to an estimated 8.5 billion dollars.
Conversations in Riyadh between the Russian President and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman encompassed a spectrum of topics, from trade and investments to the broader strokes of international politics, with the bilateral trade volume reaching approximately 1.6 billion dollars in 2022.
Russia seeks to assert a more pronounced influence within the Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf milieu, employing a dual strategy of vigorous economic and active political-security diplomacy, particularly in the Persian Gulf’s southern reaches. This strategy includes cultivating robust relationships with key regional actors such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Qatar.
Russia’s impending 2024 presidency of BRICS will likely steer the discussions between Iran and Russia within the Kremlin, where potential collaboration under the BRICS umbrella may be explored.
The dialogue between Iran and Russia is expected to cover working within international entities such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and the Eurasian Union, which hold the potential to further amplify and solidify their economic ties.