Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran on Tuesday for a rare international visit that underscores how the two countries have become more aligned amid their isolation from Europe and the United States.
Officials in both Russia and Iran have said in recent days that sanctions have brought them closer. In an interview with an Iranian broadcaster ahead of Putin’s visit, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, brought up the history of 16th-century diplomacy between Russia and Persia to set the scene for what he promised would be a new era of friendship between Tehran and Moscow.
“Many of today’s countries did not exist at that time,” he said.
Peskov said Iran and Russia could soon sign a treaty on strategic cooperation, expand their cooperation in banking and finance, and move away from using the dollar to classify their trade.
For his part, the head of the Iranian Parliament’s Economic Committee, Mohammadrez Pouribrahimi, considered increasing such measures a priority for both countries. “The sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on Russia have made cooperation between Iran and Russia even more necessary,” he said on Monday.
The Kremlin is keen to show the world – and its people – that it still has friends, despite global contempt over the war in Ukraine. This gives Iran a new opportunity to stimulate its sanctions-starved economy, as Russian companies that used to focus on trade with the West are now racing to find new markets and suppliers. Restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that could ease sanctions on Iran appears out of reach.
“We have the highest hopes,” Russia’s ambassador to Iran Levan Dzharyan told Russian state television before the visit.
Putin arrived in Tehran around 5 p.m. local time, according to Russian state media, and his meetings are expected to extend into the late evening. This is only his second trip outside Russia since the start of the Ukraine war.
He will meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an honor that indicates how much the two countries are interested in deepening their relations. An Iranian news website, Fararo, pledged that “the more aggressive the United States is in confronting Iran, the closer we will be to Russia.” A conservative Russian outlet, Tsargrad, announced that the emerging alliance represented a “new axis for good”.
On Tuesday, Putin will also meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as with his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also visit Tehran. At a tripartite summit, the presidents will discuss Syria, where Erdogan has been threatening a new military incursion into the northeast to expel Kurdish militias that Turkey considers terrorists. Erdogan says any military action aims to lure refugees from the Syrian civil war back to their countries of origin.
Khamenei set a tepid tone for that summit earlier on Tuesday in a separate meeting with Erdogan, as he appeared to reject Turkey’s military plans.
“Terrorism must definitely be confronted, but a military attack on Syria will only benefit terrorists,” said a message on Khamenei’s Twitter account alongside a photo of him meeting the Turkish leader.
There was no immediate response from Turkey.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabadollahian, said that in addition to increased economic ties, Tuesday’s meetings will address security issues and concerns about food supply shortages. Erdogan, who has close ties to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has emerged as the most active broker between the two men and is working on a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to be exported via Russian warships in the Black Sea.
According to US officials, Russia is looking to Iran to fill the shortage of drones on the battlefield in Ukraine. Peskov declined to say whether Russia had any plans to buy Iranian drones, and said Putin would not discuss the issue on Tuesday.