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Russia and Iran: Historic Mistrust and Contemporary Partnership



Russia and Iran: Historic Mistrust and Contemporary Partnership

Russia’s recent use of an Iranian air base to bomb targets across Syria marks a striking new development in the history of Russian-Iranian relations. Throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, Iran had unsuccessfully resisted Russian designs to control its land and influence its politics. Iran’s 1979 revolution was meant, among other things, to restore the country’s sovereignty against great powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and to stand up to the atheist Soviet Union. Yet in contrast with the past, Russia now is no longer an uninvited imperial power, but a welcome strategic partner—the first time since 1979 that Iran has allowed foreign military personnel to operate from its territory.

As Moscow reenters the Middle East after a quarter-century break, it understands the importance of Iran, one of the most important countries along Russia’s southern periphery. Russia is fully ready to engage with Iran on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and international issues involving trade, energy, and security. Yet although the two countries share many goals and cooperation looks promising, the relationship is still relatively fragile and policy disagreements between them must be handled deftly.
About the Author
Dmitri Trenin is director of Carnegie Moscow Center and chair of its Foreign and Security Policy Program. Follow him on Twitter @DmitriTrenin.
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