Tensions in Russian - Iranian relations

Statements by Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov reflect inherent tensions within the different components of Russia's foreign policy position towards Iran.

Two statements by Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov to the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy represent two different national security priorities that Russia is trying to balance.

Russia's Interfax news reported Ivanov as saying that "the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran would directly and indirectly be a threat to Russia's interests". At the same time, he declared that "We oppose attempts to use this issue as an instrument of pressure or interference in Iran's internal affairs."

Russian Foreign Policy

Russia's foreign policy is made up of four components many of which are reflected in its relationship with Iran.

  • Maintaining Great Power status – Putin recently spoke out against US unilateralism and takes an independent line from the Quartet with regards to Hamas. In addition, it has expressed its opposition to harsher sanctions against Iran.

  • Protecting State Sovereignty from outside interferenceRussia's joint proclamation with China supporting each other's positions on Chechnya, Taiwan and Tibet. These policies are also expressed in Russia's position regarding American involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

  • Keeping its influence in its 'Near Abroad'Russia sees NATO expansion and the proposed US rocket shield in Eastern Europe as its biggest threat. In addition it looks to expand its influence in the Middle East, and keeps close ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran by selling arms.

  • Preventing further nuclear proliferationRussia recently stopped transferring energy to the Busher reactor and stand with the US against the Iranian nuclear project.

The Reut Institute identifies inherent tensions within the different components of Russia's foreign policy position towards Iran:

Economic SphereRussia's sales of arms, nuclear knowledge and services to Iran are based on profits not ideology. It is in Russia's interest to maintain Iran's economic dependency towards her. Simultaneously, Russia does not want to see Iran militarily and politically strong nor with the ability to improve its own productive capacity. This is to ensure such economic dependency continues and to prevent Iran becoming a regional power.

Political and Military Sphere – Ivanov's statements represent two other central aspects of Russian Foreign Policy that conflict with one another; that of preventing the emergence of another nuclear power as well as representing itself as protecting State Sovereignty in the international system.


Haaretz, 3/20/07; full text.

China View, 3/18/07; full text.

Interfax Politics, 3/18/2007; full text.