Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 18 May 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński
Russia, Iran Continue Military And Economic Rapprochement
Seeing the United States as its common foe, Tehran and Moscow have embarked on deepening cooperation amid massive Western sanctions. Iran supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while Moscow is helping Tehran in the Middle East. This is confirmed by recent meetings between top Russian and Iranian officials.
On May 13, Iranian news outlets reported that the country’s military would soon receive its first batch of Russian Su-35 fighter jets. The U.S. on May 15 cited Moscow’s desire to acquire more military drones. Russia has already used more than 400 Shahed drones in Ukraine since August 2022. Although the Russian-made Su-35 fighters are not perfect, acquiring them could help Iran project its military power throughout the region, also to support Syria’s al-Assad. In 2015 the authorities in Tehran asked Moscow to get involved in Syria’s civil war and help the country’s dictator by performing air strikes on his enemies. Importantly, this plea for help was crucial as back then Iran was unable to provide Damascus with the support it needed. Now it can change. Iran could de facto push Russian forces out of Syria by offering air support to al-Assad, also in case of an offensive on the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib. Heavily involved in Ukraine, Moscow is scaling back its military presence in Syria. A sign of a military rapprochement between Russia and Iran is a visit that the commander of the Russian Navy paid to Tehran between May 15 and 16. Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, also traveled to Iran to meet Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, the commander of the Iranian Navy. The two held talks just two months after Iran, Russia, and China had conducted a four-day naval drill in the Gulf of Oman. In Tehran, the admirals called for new military agreements between their countries. On the same day, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak met Iran’s defense minister, in charge of the country’s energy issues, in Tehran. The Russian official attended a ceremony overseen, via a video link, by the presidents of Russia and Iran. Russia and Iran on May 17 signed a deal to finance and build a €1.6 billion Iranian railway line as part of an international Rasht-Astararailway. Russia will provide Iran with €1.3 billion worth of loans. The North-South transport artery, of which the Rasht-Astara railway will become a part, will help connect Russia with Iranian ports in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.
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