As predicted on the eve of Joe Biden’s Middle East visit and Putin’s trip to Tehran, the Russian president clearly demonstrated the significant difference between Russian and US foreign policy. First of all, it lies in Moscow’s aspiration to create humanitarian conditions for peacebuilding that meet global requirements, while the White House has confirmed its commitment to only deepening conflicts and bloc-based confrontation between Russia and China.
Many of the world’s media have already noted the differences in Moscow’s and Washington’s approach to the world’s current problems and, hence, the international public’s reaction to the foreign policy moves of the US and Russian Presidents, which turned out not to be in favor of Joe Biden. This, as the German newspaper Die Welt reports, can even be seen in the reception ceremonies during the visits of US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia, indicating Moscow’s growing influence. According to an assessment made by former US journalistKaren Elliott House in an article published on the Wall Street Journal website on July 18, the visit to Saudi Arabia by Joe Biden was not only detrimental to US interests, it was an embarrassment to the US President who made no progress on any of the key issues.
The world’s leading media outlets have reached quite the opposite conclusion after the meeting between the Presidents of Russia and Turkey and the head of Iran in Tehran. For example, the Swiss TV channel SRF stressed that, although officially they were talking about facilitating the settlement of the situation in Syria, the main message of the meeting was different: the world is not limited to the interests of the West. SRF Middle East expert Philipp Scholkmann highlighted that the meeting completely undermines the Western-promoted idea that Russia is allegedly isolated, and the same applies to Iran. Both countries are successfully confronting a “morally decayed, decadent West,” which provides, according to Scholkmann, strong justification for military intervention: in the case of Moscow, in Ukraine, and in the case of Iran, in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran on July 19, where he attended a trilateral summit with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who are the guarantors of the Astana process to facilitate the Syrian settlement. Having coordinated their stances, the three leaders issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to strengthening trilateral cooperation between Russia, Iran and Turkey in order to achieve a sustainable and viable normalization of the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. The sides agreed that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved through diplomacy and that the situation in the country should be controlled by the Syrians themselves without interference from other countries.
The negotiations also condemned sanctions against Syria, as well as Washington’s destructive interference. The US should stop looting Syria and return Trans-Euphrates to the control of the Syrian authorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, stressing that this is a “common position” of Russia, Turkey and Iran. The Russian President also stressed that sanctions against Syria are having disastrous results, with the majority of the country’s population living below the poverty line. Furthermore, Putin stressed that all humanitarian aid to Syria should go through official local authorities.
Referring to Washington’s activities in Syria, Aide to the President Yury Ushakov clarified that the US and its allies have so far failed to fulfil their commitments to support infrastructure reconstruction projects in Syria, continuing to politicize the issue of humanitarian aid to Damascus. As a result, Western commitments to support the reconstruction of basic social and economic infrastructure in Syria, as well as the easing of sanctions, have been broken over the past year.
In addition to actively discussing Syrian issues, Vladimir Putin held bilateral and trilateral meetings with the leaders of Iran and Turkey during the Tehran summit, aimed at developing economic relations and new joint projects.
For example, it was stated that in the last six months trade between Russia and Iran has increased by 40% and there are good prospects for bilateral cooperation in a variety of spheres. These include infrastructure development, with the Iranian national oil company and Gazprom signing a memorandum of cooperation on a number of projects, whose total value is estimated at $40 billion. In particular, they will be aimed at the development of six oil fields and three gas fields, as well as the construction of main gas pipelines. Russian Railways intends to build a 146-kilometer stretch of railway on Iranian territory, creating a transport corridor that will connect Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran by rail, with trains running from St Petersburg to ports on the Persian Gulf. In nuclear energy, Russia has confirmed its willingness to mediate the restoration of full cooperation between the International Energy Agency and Iran. An agreement was achieved to make greater use of national currencies in trade; on the eve of the meeting, the Russian ruble has already begun trading on the Tehran Currency Exchange, which will further facilitate trade between the countries.
The Tehran meeting also touched on food security, on which, as on a number of other topics, Russia is actively cooperating with Turkey. This was confirmed by Vladimir Putin’s concluding statement from his bilateral meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In particular, the Russian side appreciated the substantive and productive negotiations in Istanbul on July 13 on facilitating the supply of both Russian and Ukrainian grain to world markets. Vladimir Putin said that relations between Russia and Turkey were developing “against all odds” and that trade was growing at a considerable pace. Gazprom’s supplies account for almost half of Turkey’s natural gas imports, and Russian companies provide about a quarter of Turkey’s oil imports.
As in Moscow’s relations with Iran, Russia and Turkey are also considering abandoning the dollar and switching to national currencies for energy payments. Given the sanctions pressure from the West and attempts to limit the presence of Russian energy on the world market, the creation of alternative settlement systems only reinforces this idea.
It was noted that another important issue, the settlement of the Karabakh problem, was also in the focus of bilateral attention.
According to participants in the Tehran meeting, the negotiations between the Presidents took place in a friendly and promising atmosphere. Moscow’s goals of forming a humanitarian axis in Tehran to counteract aggressive actions by the West have been achieved. Leading media outlets, while noting the undoubted success of Vladimir Putin’s meeting with the leaders of Turkey and Iran, emphasize Moscow’s successful resistance to Western pressure and the winning independent policies of the three heads of state gathered in Tehran. According to an observer of the New York Times, it is not only the support expressed for Vladimir Putin by Iran’s supreme leader that draws attention, but also the ability of Moscow and Tehran to create an alliance that will significantly reduce US influence in the Middle East. A similar assessment is made by British journalists who point out that the Western policy of isolating Russia has essentially failed, and the visit to Iran has only confirmed this.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.