Vladimir Sazhin

Strategic Partnership Between Russia And Iran At a New Phase: What Can The Two Countries Offer Each Other?

Date of publication : January 12, 2018 23:29 pm
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (back to the camera) in Moscow on January 10, 2018

On the Term “Strategic Partnership”
The term “strategic partnership” is used widely in diplomatic practice and journalism to highlight special high-level relationships between two or more countries. However, a scientific definition for the term has yet to be developed.[1]
So, what is “strategic partnership”? First, it implies a high degree of cooperation compared to regular relationships.
Below are some of the characteristic features that identify the essence of a strategic partnership:
* An absence of serious antagonistic interstate problems in bilateral relations;
* A high degree of mutual trust;
* Transparent relations, implying broad engagement in addressing both internal and international issues;
* Broad economic and political cooperation;
* Close coordination of foreign policy decision-making in all key areas;
* Resolute resistance to any opportunistic volatile influence originating from both partner countries (such as a change of leadership), and from the outside;
* A long-standing relationship, which is required in order to implement long-term political, economic, and, as a rule, military programmes.
The Russian researcher I. A. Novikov suggests a few more characteristic features of a strategic partnership:
* A regulatory framework for a partnership, where the essence of cooperation and mechanisms to implement it are legally enshrined;
* Long-standing mechanisms to implement a strategic partnership;
* The ability to respect each other’s interests, meet half-way, and support partners, even if there is no obvious benefit;
* Refrain, on a reciprocal basis, from any discriminatory and ultimatum-like activities with regard to partners;
* Share common values underlying a partner’s political system.
There is no doubt that before declaring a strategic partnership, it is necessary to analyse and compare the actual content of social transformation, as well as the capabilities, of a partner country; identify points and lines for convergence and, possibly, overlap, as well as differences and contradictions that require attention in the course of political and economic engagement.[2]
Since 2000, Russia has signed strategic cooperation documents with around 15 countries, including Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Laos, Mongolia, Morocco, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.[3]
If analysed objectively, the range of Russia’s current relationships with the countries mentioned above – from good to bad – is very broad, and referring to relations with many of the above countries as “strategic partnerships” would be a gross exaggeration.
In this context, it would be inaccurate to identify good political, diplomatic or trade and economic relations at a high level – or coinciding positions on certain international issues, or sporadic harmonization of activities in some dimensions of foreign policies of any two countries – as a strategic partnership.
In politics, or even in wars, countries may sometimes act as partners in the pursuit of specific goals; however, it does not mean that they are strategic partners.
The Russia–Iran Partnership: A Lack of Trust
Based on the above-mentioned characteristic features of strategic partnerships, as well as on objective analysis of the status of the Russia–Iran relationship, which is not affected by the propaganda fervour caused by the current situation around Russia and Iran, it would be an obvious exaggeration to characterize them as “strategic.”
This can largely be attributed to a lack of trust between the two sides. Analysts point to several historical and current facts that discourage the Iranian side from putting their complete trust in the Russians.[4] These include (without detailed breakdowns):
* The Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828), which formalized Russia’s victories over Persia in two wars and provided a legal framework for the transfer of vast territories in the South Caucasus (modern-day Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) to Russian jurisdiction;
* The Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907, which delineated spheres of influence in Persia;
* The occupation of Iran (as seen by Iran) by Soviet and British troops in 1941;
* The activities of the communist Tudeh Party of Iran sponsored by the USSR;
* The attempt by the Soviet Union to take Southern Azerbaijan (1946);
* The Soviet Union’s support for Iranian Kurds from the Republic of Mahabad (1946);
* The Afghan campaign of the Soviet Union (1979–1989);
* The Soviet position on the Iran–Iraq War (active support for Saddam Hussein) (1980–1988);
* The infamous Gore–Chernomyrdin Commission (1995), which froze military and technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran;
* Delays in the construction of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (1995–2011);
* Russia’s support of anti-Iran sanctions at the United Nations Security Council (2006–2010);
* The incident with S-300 surface-to-air missile systems and other military and technical cooperation contracts (2010–2015);
* The influence of the United States and the West on Moscow’s economy and politics (up until 2014);
* The unfair (according to Iran) division of the Caspian Sea;
* The incomplete convergence of views on the situation in Syria and future of that country
Mandana Tisheyar, Doctor of Political Science, Assistant Professor at Tehran University and former Vice-President of the Institute of Iran-Eurasia Studies (IRAS), had this to say: “This historic negativity that still remains in Iranian society with regard to Russia was quite apparent during the rallies staged following the elections of 2009… Why were people clamouring against Russia? In my opinion, the problem is the historical memory of the Iranians, who see Russia and the United Kingdom tacitly interfering in any development, and who have a negative attitude to these two countries.”[5]
For Russia, it is also hard to deal with Iran. Azeri political expert Fahraddin Aboszoda, who currently resides in Russia, makes an interesting observation: “on June 7, 2012, Shanghai hosted a meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and then President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the course of their meeting, the two heads of state unanimously approved a 10-item ‘roadmap’ for Iran, developed with the involvement of leading Russian experts.
“Alas, as soon as Ahmadinejad returned to Tehran, the local elites started a fight over the document, which was essentially nullified. The Russian administration had to make adjustments to its policy on Iran.”[6]
Incidentally, back in 2002, an ambitious project was developed: the “Long-Term Programme for the Development of Trade, Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran for the Period up to 2012.”[7] The Russian government approved the project. But the Iranian leadership remained silent, which is why, in 2007, the promising project became invalid on the basis of Resolution No. 853 of the Government of the Russian Federation, dated December 12, 2007.[8] That was an opportunity the two countries missed. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that the 2000s turned out to have “zero” positive impact on trade and economic relations between Russia and Iran, with the sole exception of the construction of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant by Russia.
The results of bilateral trade reported in the past few years also appear to be too modest for the relationship between Russia and Iran to be categorized as strategic. Iran accounted for 0.2 per cent of Russia’s foreign trade in 2015, whereas Russia’s share in Iran’s foreign trade was 1.1 per cent.[9] Bilateral trade continues to fall; in 2014, it stood at $1.68 billion (compared to the $52 billion trade turnover between Iran and China in the same year), while in 2015, the figure dropped by 26 per cent year-on-year to the exceedingly low level of $1.24 billion.[10]
Russian and Iranian Interests in the Caspian Region: An Area of Cooperation, or One of Competition?
Over the 500 years since contacts between Russia and Persia began, the Caspian Sea, and the Volga River that flows into it, have played a pivotal role in the lives of the neighbouring states. In the past, the significance of this sea was limited to its role as a waterway, whereas now the Caspian encompasses political, diplomatic, economic and military dimensions.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were two Caspian Sea countries, namely Russia (the USSR) and Iran (Persia). Now there are more – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The “Caspian issue” emerged quite naturally, comprising legal, political, economic, military and environmental issues. The legal status of the Caspian Sea has remained the main issue for 25 years now, specifically, the question of how to divide it up among the interested states.
The agreements between the Soviet Union and Iran – the “Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship” signed on February 26, 1921,[11] and the “Treaty on Trade and Navigation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Iran” (Tehran, March 25, 1940[12]) – remain in effect to this day. However, these documents do not regulate the current issues of dividing the Caspian territories, including subsurface use and environmental protection, military activities, transit rules etc. [see Background Information[13]].
In 2003, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed a series of bilateral agreements to the effect that the seabed and its resources were subject to division, whereas the surface remained in common use. The three countries signed the Agreement on the division lines for adjacent areas of the Caspian Sea floor. All the controversial issues between the three states were settled.
However, Iran sharply disagreed with the Russia–Kazakhstan accord and recalled its special envoy on the Caspian issue in response to Russia’s arrangement with Azerbaijan. The Iranian leadership even voiced its intention to recall the country’s ambassador to Russia.[14] Iran will not recognize the legitimacy of the tripartite agreements on the Caspian Sea,[15] and insists that the seabed and surface should be divided into equal national sectors, i.e. 20 per cent for each country (currently Iran owns approximately 13 per cent).[16]
It is the dispute over the division of the Caspian Sea that is the main obstacle to the conclusion of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Importantly, the Iranian administration considers the Caspian issue as a foreign policy priority; although it is Iran’s position on the division of the sea that has so far remained the main stumbling block on the way to agreements…[17]
The absence of a consensus between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are slowing down the development of a common document. So, we shouldn’t expect a significant breakthrough any time soon.
Nevertheless, some progress has been reported in other areas. The following documents have been signed: the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea,[18] the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea,[19] a number of environmental and fishing documents (including the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Resources of the Caspian Sea),[20] and an agreement on the principles of national sovereignty of each of the countries in the coastal maritime space within the range of 15 miles plus 10 “fishing” miles.[21]
The participants in the most recent, Fourth Caspian Summit, which took place in Astrakhan in September 2014, spoke very highly of its outcomes. Some important documents were signed, including the Statement by the Presidents of the Five Caspian Countries, the Communiqué of the Fourth Caspian Summit, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Emergency Response in the Caspian Sea, and the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Resources of the Caspian Sea.[22]
The five Caspian countries agreed that military activity in the region was supposed to be based upon the principles of “reasonable adequacy” and the provision of equal security conditions for all of the Caspian countries.[23] Furthermore, they confirmed the previously agreed principle of the “non-involvement of armed forces that do not belong to the parties in the Caspian Sea.”[24]
Currently, the Caspian region is to a great extent an area of Russia–Iran cooperation, including in the military sector. In the last few years, mutual visits by Russian and Iranian ships in the Caspian Sea have been organized on a regular basis. Joint Russia–Iran naval exercises are held. Large-scale manoeuvres of all of the Caspian Sea countries are scheduled to take place in the mid-September 2016 in the Russian coastal area.[25]
The main thing that unites Moscow and Tehran in the “Caspian issue” is, first and foremost, their negative attitude to laying down pipelines at the bottom of the Caspian Sea (the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline), a project that is backed by Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, remains undecided.[26] This shared attitude is easy to understand: neither Russia nor Iran wishes to be cut off from the European gas transportation project along the prospective Kazakhstan–Turkmenistan–the Caspian Sea floor–Azerbaijan–Europe route.
In addition to these two issues, which are fundamental for both countries, Russia and Iran have either coinciding or close positions on a number of other issues. However, despite the declared common ground, Moscow is somewhat concerned over the growing military power of Iran in the Caspian region.[27] Interestingly, back in the times of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Iranian Navy in the Caspian Sea was represented by a single yacht.
Also noteworthy is the disagreement between Moscow and Tehran on the key issue of dividing the Caspian Sea (see above). However, since the agreements on diving the Caspian were signed with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Russia has been less concerned about Iran’s position. For its part, Tehran diplomatically avoids mentioning the differences, especially in the media, although the issue remains a “thorn” in the Russia–Iran relationship. The similar situation in Russian-Iranian relations takes place concerning Syrian crisis.
Russian and Iranian Interests in Syria
Russia and Iran are on the same side of the barricades in the Syrian conflict, as they support the current state institutions in Syria. Apparently, President Bashar al-Assad would have been overthrown if it had been not for support from Iran and Russia. Tactically, the positions of Moscow and Tehran coincide; however, the two do not agree in terms of their strategic vision of Syria’s future. Russia wishes to see Syria as a secular state, with all confessions and ethnic groups being equal, whereas Iran gravitates towards helping Syria shape a state structure in which the Alawites (followers of Shia Islam) and other religious minorities would retain their advantage over the Sunni majority. This will enable Iran to strengthen its military and political positions in both Syria and across the Middle East by establishing a “Shia Crescent” that spreads from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria.
These plans of Tehran can become a reality only if Bashar al-Assad – Iran’s only (at least officially) strategic ally – stays in power. As a result, the vision of the future of Syria’s incumbent president is different in Moscow and Tehran. Specifically, the Iran insists on keeping Bashar al-Assad as the head of state, whereas Russia is ready to compromise when it comes to the president on the condition that Syria keeps its statehood and forms a provisional coalition government comprising supporters of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition. For Russia, it is not a question of who will lead Syria, but of how the future president will assert and guarantee Russia’s interests.
The Russian researcher Nikolay Kozhanov writes: “neither Moscow nor Tehran has illusions about the difference of their ultimate objectives, which make both Russia and Iran struggle for the survival of Syrian state institutions. Ali Akbar Velayati [aide to Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – V.S.] made it clear: ‘Each country seeks to draw benefits, [however] Russia will be unable to protect its interests in the Middle East and the region on its own.’”[28] Nevertheless, tactically, Russia and Iran conduct consultations; albeit without the establishment of a full military union.
As Kozhanov fairly notes, the Russia–Iran “marriage of convenience” enables the two countries to smooth out the bumps, but it fails to address the problem, only offering delays until the time comes when the question is put point-blank.[29]
Therefore, even on the Syrian issue, which both Moscow and Tehran find so important, it would be an exaggeration to make use of such terms as “strategic partnership.”
Is A Strategic Partnership between Russia and Iran Possible?
Based upon the academic definition – not the propaganda interpretation – of the term “strategic partnership,” the answer to the above question is “no.” In the words of Gholamreza Shafei, Iranian Ambassador to Russia in 1999–2005: “It depends upon how you define a strategic alliance… I still believe that every nation must first consider its own national interest and their relations must be built upon these frameworks. Relations with Russia must follow the same path.”[30]
It should be added that Russia’s attitude to Iran is the same. Russia’s interests in the Middle East are multidimensional, and focus not only on the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is currently facing a number of difficulties, both at the geostrategic level (the Iran–Shia confrontation with Sunnis), and within the framework of the region, where Iran’s military and political interests come into conflict with virtually all the countries in the region.
While asserting its interests in the Middle East, specifically in Syria, Russia has managed to maintain normal business relations with nearly all the countries in the Middle Eastern (except for Turkey), including the main adversaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran – Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this situation, a strategic alliance with Iran could considerably weaken Russia’s positions and cause a confrontation, first of all, with most of the countries in the region, and, second of all, with the global Muslim Sunni majority, which could have internal political consequences for the Russian Federation.
So what can be done?
Nematollah Izadi, Iran’s last ambassador to the USSR and first ambassador to Russia, said in one of his recent interviews: “We cannot have strategic relations. In some areas, our objectives are in conflict... However, we can have the best relations at the highest level possible.”[31] In this connection, Mr. Izadi shared a very reasonable and timely idea: “Tehran and Moscow cannot be strategic allies, but we should have a strategy for our relations.”[32]
Unfortunately, there is no strategy for the development of bilateral relations. As far as politics is concerned, as we have already mentioned, views often do not coincide even when it comes to such crucial areas as the Caspian Sea issue and the situation around Syria. There is no joint plan to address these issues, either.
Arguably, one of the few items that brings Moscow closer to Tehran politically is their opposition to the West. However, it would seem that it is not enough. The idea put forward at the conference “Development of Strategic Partnership between Russian and Iran” on November 24, 2014 by Igor Ivanov, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and current President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), is the best illustration we can give: “You cannot build bilateral relations on joint opposition to the West. We need a constructive agenda, a list of priorities that would enable us to move forward; albeit based primarily upon mutual interests.”[33]
However, new shades have appeared even in the proximity of the anti-western positions of Moscow and Tehran. The post-sanctions Iran represented by the liberal and reform-backing wing of the political and business elite, as well as the majority of the population, are looking with increasing hope to the West, especially the European Union.[34] Moreover, the President of Iran Hassan Rouhani has said that Iran could have friendly relations with the United States, which, in the eyes of his fundamentalist opponents, is interpreted as mutiny and heresy that should be condemned and slammed.[35]
Yet, the main thing is that Iran desperately needs enormous foreign investments and high technology.[36]
What are Russia’s Interests in Building a Partnership with Iran? Why Does Russia Need Iran?
The Islamic Republic of Iran plays a dominant military and political role in one of the key regions of the planet – Western Asia, which comprises the Middle East, the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia. There is no need to mention that Iran is a crucial source of hydrocarbons. Iran owns 10 per cent of the world’s proven reserves of oil with 158 billion barrels,[37] fourth behind Venezuela (298.3 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia (267 billion barrels) and Canada (172.9 billion barrels).[38] It also has 18.2 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves with 34 trillion cubic metres (making it the world leader, in front of second-placed Russia, which produces 32.6 trillion cubic metres).[39] Iran’s territory is an extremely valuable asset when it comes to the transporting oil and gas products and the overall transport capacity of the North–South and West–East routes. Moreover, with a population of 80 million and one of the world’s largest armies, Iran is objectively, beyond any external or internal political framework, the decisive factor of the Western Asian regional and global policy.
After the Iranian nuclear issue was effectively resolved on July 14, 2015 and the process of lifting the sanctions commenced, Iran became a global centre of gravity for politics and business. There is no way Russia can lose such a promising country, neither in the political, nor in the trade and economic sense.
As far as politics is concerned, the possible priority interest for Moscow is Tehran’s overall anti-western policy – both globally and regionally – albeit sometimes with purely propagandistic intentions.
When it comes to the bilateral business relationship in commerce and economics, unfortunately, Russia’s potential is limited to only a few industries, namely power engineering, including nuclear power; space exploration, including the launch of powerful satellites for practical economic purposes by Russian carriers; railway construction; the electrification and modernization of Iranian railways; and agriculture at various levels – from the government level to the level of small businesses. A promising area of cooperation is oil and gas exploration, as well as projects to improve oil recovery at old Iranian deposits using Russian technologies. Another significant dimension is military and technical cooperation. Nevertheless, business entities of the two countries do not seem especially interested in each other for both objective and subjective reasons (specified above).
Despite the increased frequency of meetings and negotiations at various levels – including at the summit level – and in various formats in 2014–2016, and despite the substantial number of agreements of intent, only a few projects are currently close to being implemented. These include the agreement on the construction of two new units at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant by Russia,[40] an agreement on the modernization of Iran’s railways,[41] an agreement on the exploration of iron ore deposits,[42] an agreement between Rosneftegazstroy and Iran’s NPC International Ltd. on the establishment of a joint fertilizer-making company,[43] and an agreement on supplies of Russian automotive products to Iran.[44] Furthermore, certain progress has been made in the supplies of Iranian farm produce to the Russian Federation.
Russia has expressed its willingness to extend a state export loan of $5 billion to Iran.[45] The first instalment, amounting to $2.2 billion, will be provided to finance contracts for the construction of power plants and the electrification of railways. A total of 35 priority projects have been selected for joint cooperation – in power engineering, construction, marine terminals, railways, etc.[46] Whether these plans will ever reach the completion phase is the big question now.
There are many obstacles to the development of economic relations between Russia and Iran. First, big business and state corporations, which are obviously oriented to linking officials to big capital, clearly play an important role in the two economies. Second, the structure of Russian and Iranian exports is such that the consumer demand for each other’s products is extremely low (which to some extent can be evidenced by the low level of commodity exchanges between the two countries). Third, even after Iran’s access to the SWIFT system was restored, bank payments between Russian and Iranian contractors remain extremely complicated. Fourth, neither country has sufficient funds to fill these payments with the necessary money, be it roubles or Rials. Fifth, transport costs are overstated because of the absence of a contemporary logistics infrastructure and agreements on road carriage. Sixth, Iranian small and medium-sized companies mostly cater for internal consumption or neighbouring markets, whereas big business is mostly oriented towards the West or China. Furthermore, red tape and ubiquitous corruption remain serious obstacles to business in both Iran and Russia, while very few entrepreneurs have an understanding of the peculiarities of doing business in both countries. Interestingly, Iran is the world’s 119th economy in terms of the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report. In 2015, Iran ranked 130th of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (annual international corruption perception rankings, in which the least corrupt nation ranks first, whereas the most corrupt country ranks 175th).[47]
What Steps Should be Taken to Ensure Long-Term Partner Relations between Russia and Iran?
* A solid foundation needs to be formed – especially a legal framework – to work out a strategy for the consistent development of cooperation for the long run in all areas: politics, business, military and culture, without which there will be no stability or sustainability of the bilateral relationship. In this connection, it is necessary to prepare and approve a comprehensive document on the basis of bilateral partner (and non-strategic) relations , taking the fundamental interests of both countries into account, and with a clear understanding of what unites and separates them;
* A priority dimension that should be in the focus of mutual efforts is a system of settlements and money transfer that concerns (and impedes!) the development of literally all cooperation areas, including tourism and cultural exchange;
* It is necessary to form a list of projects in all fields of cooperation and focus on them while channelling efforts and assets into their implementation;[48]
* It is also important to ensure information support for the entire process of developing Russia–Iran relations by both the Russian and Iranian media.
* Following the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue on July 14, 2015 and the commencement of the process to lift the sanctions, Iran became a key player in the global and regional political scene and a serious international legal entity;
* Russia is interested in building solid partnership relations with Iran. Russia’s objective is to establish reliable ties in the shortest time possible and for a long term that would be independent of the political climate both inside the two countries and beyond them;
* The possibilities for Russia to compete in the Iranian market are limited, not least of all by the current serious crisis phenomena in the Russian economy;
* Along with the positive aspects of Russia–Iran cooperation, which are expressed in common or related interests, there are also negative features: post-sanctions Iran is clearly turning towards the West;
* The domestic political situation in both Russia and Iran has changed, as has the external political situation around these countries. The establishment of partner relations between Russia and Iran that are based on trust and which pursue a more realistic and pragmatic policy inside the country, the region and the world, will pave the way for the comprehensive development of political, trade, economic, scientific and cultural ties with a view to establishing a security framework in the southern and eastern strategic areas;
* Given the political, ideological, psychological, trade, economic and even philosophical factors that affect the bilateral relationship, it would seem appropriate to avoid using the term “strategic partnership” to define them, but identify the current status of Russia–Iran relations as a future-oriented “pragmatic partnership.”

[1]Strategic partnership / Studbooks.net. URL: http://studbooks.net/8187/politologiya/strategicheskoe_partnerstvo (in Russian).
[2] Ibid
[3] Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation, 05.10.2000, URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/901783728 (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 02.03.2001, URL: http://www.mid.ru/maps/vn/-/asset_publisher/a6q3L9Hzzxu2/content/id/589248 (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, 04.04.2001, URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/901794649 (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Morocco, 15.10.2002, URL: http://docs.pravo.ru/document/view/17355744/15005987/ (in Russian).
Joint Declaration of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, 01.12.2002, URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/3546 (in Russian).
Agreement on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan, 16.06.2004, URL: http://uzbek-people.narod.ru/p_4.html (in Russian).
Declaration on Friendship and Strategic Partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, 03.07.2008, URL: http://sngcom.ru/azerbaijan/legislation/declaration.html (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Spain, 03.03.2009, URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/163 (in Russian).
Agreement on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt, 23.06.2009, URL: http://dokipedia.ru/document/5191408 (in Russian).
Declaration on the Promotion of Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and Mongolia, 25.08.2009, URL: http://www.mongolia.mid.ru/90years_4.html (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ecuador, 29.10.2009, URL: http://www.mid.ru/web/guest/k-70-letiu-pobedy/-/asset_publisher/HMNA6A99fPmT/content/id/1289377 (in Russian and Spanish).
Declaration on the Substance of the Strategic Partnership between Russia and Ukraine, 12.07.2012, URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/1258 (in Russian).
Joint Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa, 23.03.2013, URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/499014861 (in Russian).
Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Serbia, 24.05.2013, URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/1461 (in Russian).
[4] This much is also evident from an article published on the website of the Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies / IRAS, 04.05.2016, URL: http://www.iras.ir/www.iras.iren/doc/interview/1190/gholamreza-shafei-iranian-pessimism-towards-russia-is-one-of-the-reasons-hindering-further-economic-cooperation.
[5] Russia–Iran Relations. Problems and Prospects / Edited by Е. V. Dunayeva, V. I. Sazhin. Мoscow: Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Center for Strategic Trend Studies, 2015. 260 p., p. 20 (in Russian).
[6] Fahraddin Aboszoda. Russia–Iran: What is Preventing a Breakthrough in Bilateral Relations? // REX news agency, October 25, 2014 // http://www.iarex.ru/articles/51164.html (in Russian).
[7] Long-Term Program for the Development of Trade, Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran for the Period up to 2012. URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/901823293 (in Russian).
[8] URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/902077319 (in Russian).
[9] From bear to dragon / Versia, 20.06.2016. URL: https://versia.ru/iran-uxodit-ot-rossii-v-obyatiya-kitaya (in Russian).
[10] Trade turnover between Russia and Iran for 2015 / Eksperty Rossii, 20.04.2016. URL: http://www.rusexporter.ru/research/country/detail/4239/; From bear to dragon / Versia, 20.06.2016. https://versia.ru/iran-uxodit-ot-rossii-v-obyatiya-kitaya; http:// (all in Russian).
[11] Treaty between the RSFSR and Persia. February 26, 1921 / Dokumenty XX veka.          URL: http://doc20vek.ru/node/233 (in Russian).
[12] Treaty of Establishment, Commerce and Navigation / Elektronnyj fond. URL:http://docs.cntd.ru/document/901861932 (in Russian).
[13] Background Information. In the early 18th century, towards the end of the rule of Peter the Great, the Caspian Sea was within the borders of Russia (the Persian regions of Gilan, Mazandaran and Astarabad, on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, were parts of the Russian Empire). However, the border between Persia and Russia has changed many times since then.
Under the Treaty of Gulistan, signed after the Russo–Persian War of 1804–1813, Russia was granted the exclusive right to have a Naval base in the Caspian Sea.
The Treaty of Turkmenchay, which marked the formal end of the Russo–Persian War of 1826–1828, confirmed Russia’s exclusive right to have a Navy, while Persia lost all such rights (Article 8). The Treaty remained in effect until 1917.
On February 28, 1921, the Government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed an agreement with Persia to cancel all of the treaties concluded with the Imperial Government, including the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, and recognized Persia’s right to free navigation in the Caspian Sea. The agreement contained no provisions on the division of Caspian waters.
On October 27, 1931, the USSR and Persia signed the Convention on Settlement, Trade and Navigation, which stated that only Soviet and Persian ships were entitled to operate in the Caspian Sea.
The 1935 Treaty on Settlement, Trade and Navigation between the USSR and Iran introduced the 10-mile coastal zone.
The same provision was confirmed in the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the USSR and Iran, which was signed on March 25, 1940. It was reiterated that only Soviet and Persian ships were entitled to operate in the Caspian Sea. However, that Treaty was lacking clear provisions on the division of the Caspian Sea, which complicated border control activities.
The Soviet Union unilaterally recognized the Gazan-Kuli (Turkmenistan) – Astarachay (Azerbaijan) line as the borderline in 1935. [URL http://uchebnik-online.com/129/1407.html, in Russian.]
For more details, see Rustam Mamedov. International Legal Status of the Caspian Sea: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Theory And Practice). [URL: http://www.ca-c.org/journal/cac-09-2000/19.Mamedov.shtml, in Russian.]
[14] А.М. Butayev. The Caspian Sea: What is there in it for the West? URL: http://caspiy.net/knigi/kaspij-zachem-on-zapadu/43-kaspij-zachem-on-zapadu-4-kak-razdelit-kaspijskuyu-neft.html (in Russian).
[15] Bahman Aghai Diba. Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and the Positions of Iran. / Payvand Iran News. 23/05/16. URL: http://www.payvand.com/news/16/may/1110.html.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Elena Dunayeva. Outcomes of the Astrakhan Summit of the Caspian States. / NEO New Eastern Review 09.10.2014. URL: http://ru.journal-neo.org/2014/10/09/itogi-astrahanskogo-sammita-prikaspijskih-gosudarstv/ (in Russian).
[18] Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation on signing of Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea. URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/901878548 (in Russian).
[19] Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea / The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. URL: http://www.mid.ru/obycnye-vooruzenia/-/asset_publisher/MlJdOT56NKIk/content/id/191434 (in Russian).
[20] URL: http://docs.cntd.ru/document/420356911 (in Russian).
[21] Caspian Sea countries agreed to establish sovereignty over the maritime space within 15 miles / Regnum news agency, September 29, 2014. URL: https://regnum.ru/news/1852227.html (in Russian).
[22] The documents signed by the IV Caspian Summit / President of Russia official site, September 29, 2014. URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/4756 (in Russian). http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/4756
[23] Statement of the Presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan / President of Russia official site, September 29, 2014. URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/4754 (in Russian).
[24] Ibid
[25] Astrakhan determine the position of the international exercise "Caspian-2016" / Аgentstvo novostej news agency, 05.05.2016. URL: http://www.astrakhan-24.ru/news/kaspy/k_boju_gotov_17659 (in Russian).
[26] "Caspian WISHES" of Moscow is unlikely to succeed until Karabachos conflict be settled. / Vesti.az, October 18, 2014. URL: http://vesti.az/news/222323 (in Russian).
[27] The Islamic Republic of Iran has three naval bases and approximately 90 ships in the Caspian Sea, including missile carriers, two Jamaran destroyers (light frigates) and Ghadir-class submarines. There are plans to deploy several helicopter carriers and up to 75 Peykaap-class boats. URL: http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=3627#top-content (in Russian). For more details, see V. I. Sazhin. The Military Capacity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Moscow: Moscow University Press, 2014. 544 p. (in Russian).
[28] Nikolay Kozhanov. A Marriage of Convenience. / Russia in Global Affairs. No. 3, 2016. URL: http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Brak-po-raschetu-18143 (in Russian).
[29] Nikolay Kozhanov. A Marriage of Convenience. / Russia in Global Affairs. No. 3, 2016. URL: http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Brak-po-raschetu-18143 (in Russian).
[30] Gholamreza Shafei: 'Iranian pessimism towards Russia is one of the reasons hindering further economic cooperation' / IRAS, May 4, 2016. URL: http://www.iras.ir/www.iras.iren/doc/interview/1190/gholamreza-shafei-iranian-pessimism-towards-russia-is-one-of-the-reasons-hindering-further-economic-cooperation
[31] Tehran and Moscow cannot create a strategic allies, but relations strategy / IRAS. 27 May 1395 (2016). URL: http://www.iras.ir/fa/doc/interview/1256/تهران-مسکو-نمی-توانند-متحدان-استراتژیک-باشند-اما-باید-استراتژی-روابط-داشته (in Persian).
[32] Ibid
[33] Igor Ivanov. President, Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). Speech at a conference on 24.11.14.
[34] Vladimir Sazhin. Iran is back. / RIAC, 01.02.2016. URL: http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=7184#top-content (in Russian).
[35] V. I. Sazhin. Khamenei – Rouhani: Different Visions of the Development of Iran. Institute of the Middle East. 26.03.2016. URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=27853 (in Russian).
[36] See: URL: http://pronedra.ru/globalpolitics/2016/05/03/ruhani-iran-sovershit-tehnologicheskij-skachok/ (in Russian); http://www.trend.az/iran/business/2528206.html (in Russian); and http://www.mt5.com/ru/prime_news/fullview/17212/ (in Russian).
[37] Dollar on Forex fell below 49 rubbles / Birzhevoj lider, May 18, 2015. URL: http://www.profi-forex.org/forex/entry1008255852.html (in Russian).
[38] Oil pact. Why Vladimir Putin will travel to Saudi Arabia. / KO.ru, July 2, 2015. URL: http://ko.ru/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=130715 (in Russian).
[39] BP put Russia into second place in the list of gas giants. / YA62.ru news agency, 28.07.2015. URL: http://ya62.ru/news/economy/bp_postavila_rossiyu_na_vtoroe_mesto_v_spiske_gazovykh_gigantov/ (in Russian).
[40] Russia will build 8 units at nuclear power plants in Iran. / Neftegaz.ru, November 11, 2014. URL:http://neftegaz.ru/news/view/132147-Rossiya-postroit-v-Irane-8-energoblokov-dlya-AES.-Ozhidaemaya-novost-i-priyatnaya (in Russian).
[41] Middle Urals - Iran: new level of cooperation. / Novosti oblasti, 2016-04-25. URL: http://gausoiac.ru/article/novosti-oblasti-1111111111111111111111111111 (in Russian).
[42] Russia will build eight nuclear power units in Iran / InvestFuture, November 11, 2014. URL: http://investfuture.ru/news/id/48928/ (in Russian).
[43] Trade turnover between Russia and Iran could reach in 2015 of 2-2.5 billion. / Finanz.ru, 29.01.2015. URL: http://www.finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/tovarooborot-mezhdu-rf-i-iranom-mozhet-dostich-v-2015-godu-2-2-5-mlrd-dollarov-1000473593 (in Russian).
[44] Ibid
[45] Putin: Russia is ready to grant to Iran an export credit in the amount of $ 5 billion. / NTV news agency, 24.11.2015. URL: http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/1577018/ (in Russian).
[46] Russia and Iran have initialed documents to open a credit line for $ 2.2 billion. / DILCapital.ru, February 10th. URL: http://www.oilcapital.ru/konyunktura/282014.html (in Russian).
[47] Trade turnover between Russia and Iran for 2015 / Eksperty Rossii, 20.04.2016. URL: http://www.rusexporter.ru/research/country/detail/4239/ (in Russian).
[48] Anton Khlopkov is the director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies. Speech at a conference on 24.11.14.

NB: This article first appeared at "Russia-Iran Partnership: an Overview and Prospects for the Future", co-published by IRAS and RIAC.

Vladimir Sazhin, a university professor, is the senior research associate at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
To comment on this article, please contact IRAS Editorial Board
ID: 3522