Russo-Iranian Relations in the Light of Putin’s Foreign Policy and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

Date01 December 2019
DOI10.1177/0973598419864905
Published date01 December 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Article
1 Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International
Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
2 Independent Research Scholar, Kolkata, India.
Corresponding author:
Samprity Biswas, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International
Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India.
E-mail: biswassamprity@gmail.com
Russo-Iranian
Relations in the
Light of Putin’s
Foreign Policy
and the Iranian
Nuclear Crisis
Samprity Biswas1
Suryasekhar Chakraborty2
Abstract
Historically, Russia and Iran have shared a complex relationship that
continues to color the contours of their present bilateral dealings. The
complicated patterns of cooperation and conflict between them have
been determined by a host of domestic and external factors on both
sides, most pronouncedly manifested by their respective relationship
with the USA. This article attempts to analyze Russia’s relationship with
Iran in the geopolitical setting of the post-Cold War period. The aim
of the article is to see how this bilateral relationship has evolved over
time, exploring the underlying changes and continuities, from the Yeltsin
period to the Putin era, in which Russia’s foreign policy has come to be
characterized by an assertive fervor. Russia, under President Putin, has
been pushed further toward the globalist end as the USA has attempted
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
23(2) 179–198, 2019
2019 Jadavpur University
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DOI: 10.1177/0973598419864905
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180 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 23(2)
to consolidate Western values and institutions, at times to the extent of
ignoring and undermining the principles of international law. It is within
this broader context that this article will analyze the extent to which
Russia’s disillusionment with the USA has played a role in pushing Russia
toward adopting a pragmatic and flexible approach from time to time
vis-à-vis Iran, in general, and the Iranian nuclear crisis, in particular. The
article argues that Russia’s active involvement in minimizing the impact
of sanctions on Iran and its method of dealing with Iran, through dialogue
rather than force, is not only driven by Russia’s economic interests in
the region, but is also a dependent variable of the larger Russia–USA
rivalry at the systemic level characterized by both geopolitical competi-
tions and ideational contestations over norms, beliefs, and practices of
global governance.
Keywords
Russia, Iran, USA, Iranian nuclear crisis, nuclear non-proliferation regime,
joint comprehensive plan of action
Introduction
Russia’s foreign policy under President Putin has undergone remarkable
transformation yet certain continuities, from the late Yeltsin period, have
continued to characterize its present foreign policy. This has been most
starkly visible in Russia’s policy toward Iran, which is flexible and based
on its pragmatic considerations. The genesis of this policy can be traced
back to Russia’s Foreign Minister under Yeltsin, later the Prime Minister,
Yevgeny Primakov, a visionary who directed Russia’s foreign policy
away from the West. Iran, initially skeptical of New Russia’s pro-West
policy reciprocated with cooperation when it realized that amidst its
deteriorating relationship with the USA and the latter’s efforts toward
internationally isolating it, Russia was the only viable option available to
balance the USA in the region. Thus, the tactical relationship between
Russia and Iran has been to a large extent shaped by their respective
relationship with the USA. Though domestic developments have also
played an important role in furthering cooperation between Russia and
Iran, the external context manifested by US’ unilateralism has been the
primary determinant shaping the present Russia–Iran bilateral relations.

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