Russian professor proposes free trade regime and common technological space with Iran 

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MOSCOW – Russian Professor Andrey Bezrukov suggests establishing a free trade agreement and a common economic and technological space between Russia and Iran.

“I would even propose the establishment of not only a free trade regime between our countries but the formation of a common economic and technological space that would mutually benefit both Iran and Russia,” Bezrukov tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Bezrukov, a distinguished expert on international relations and a professor at MGIMO (an institute run by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), also says, “Iran is undoubtedly one of the most significant global players today and is expected to play an even larger role in the future.”

With Iran-Russia relations standing at the crossroads of global geopolitics, Mr. Bezrukov’s perspective carries invaluable weight, offering a unique opportunity to navigate the intricate landscape of this critical partnership.
The interview with Professor Bezrukov sheds light on the dimensions of Iran-Russia relations. It also has the potential to foster greater consensus among Iranian experts, helping to bridge internal divides and misunderstandings. 

Following is the text of the interview:

Tehran Times: Iran and Russia have maintained a complex historical relationship. How does Russia envision Iran’s role in shaping the future of Eurasia, and what are your thoughts on Russia’s expectations and concerns regarding this partnership, particularly in the context of the evolving geopolitical landscape? 

Professor Andrey Bezrukov: Iran is undoubtedly one of the most significant global players today and is expected to play an even larger role in the future. It holds a crucial stake in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Building comprehensive and friendly relations with Iran is a fundamental component of Russian foreign policy and will continue to be so. While the course of Iran-Russia relations has seen numerous ups and downs throughout history, the present moment necessitates closer cooperation between our countries. The absence of a direct land border between us mitigates minor frictions and allows us to concentrate on overarching strategic goals, such as regional stability and economic development. Like Iran, Russia has consistently held influence in the South Caucasus, witnessing various attempts by external powers to reshape the region in their favor when we were weaker or distracted. These endeavors have historically failed, and the ongoing ones are likely to follow suit. The future of the South Caucasus depends on a collaborative effort among the region’s three main stakeholders – Iran, Turkey, and Russia. 

Tehran Times: Western influence in Asia has been diminishing over time. The emergence of organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS reflects this. How do you view Iran’s membership in these organizations and its implications given the Western sanctions? 

Professor Andrey Bezrukov: The declining Western influence over Asia is evident, and the formation and expansion of organizations like SCO and BRICS further underscore this shift. These developments mirror the redistribution of global economic and military power. Contrary to some opinions, Western sanctions are expediting the global redistribution of power. The trends indicate the rapid growth of non-Western institutions in financial, economic, technological, and informational domains, ultimately diminishing Western influence. Organizations like BRICS and SCO, just like the United Nations and NATO, may encounter challenges and tensions. Nevertheless, international organizations are designed to manage disputes and competing interests, not to evade them. From Russia’s perspective, Iran’s membership in BRICS and SCO is indispensable. Iran is a key stakeholder in the Middle East and Asia, and its inclusion is essential for addressing regional problems and fostering economic development and stability. 

Tehran Times: Iran is making efforts to diversify its international relationship. Some experts argue that due to Iran’s close engagement with Russia, especially in the military domain after February 22, 2022 (when Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine), it might be viewed as a foreign policy miscalculation in the context of the current post-polar world order. They suggest that the world is transitioning to a post-polar order, and strategic engagements like Iran’s with Russia might have lost their former significance. According to this view, Iran, like China, should formulate its relationship with Russia cautiously, refraining from supplying military equipment and simultaneously maintaining relations with the United States and Europe. What are your insights into Iran’s approach to international relations, particularly the juxtaposition of close engagement with Russia and the need to engage with the United States? 

Professor Andrey Bezrukov: Russia respects Iran’s sovereign right to formulate its policies based on its understanding of what serves its interests, as long as it doesn’t threaten the security of other nations. Iran is free to cultivate relations with any country, including Western states, alongside developing strategic ties with Russia. Concerning the so-called “Chinese reluctance to provide military support,” it’s crucial to clarify that Russia has neither required nor sought military support from China, given China’s publicly stated stance on the Ukraine conflict. Furthermore, the valuable political and economic support provided by China is far more significant than military assistance. Trade between our two countries is rapidly expanding, reaching $200 billion. 

Tehran Times: The North-South Corridor is gaining prominence. How does the corridor’s long-term development align with Russia’s current strategic needs, particularly amid its conflict with the West over the Ukraine crisis and the ongoing sanctions? Also, what potential impact do you foresee due to the dispute between Tehran and Baku given Israel’s growing influence in Azerbaijan coupled with Iran-Azerbaijan differences over the corridor? 

Professor Andrey Bezrukov: The development of the North-South Corridor reflects the transformation of global trade, driven by the shifting balance of industrial and economic power from the West to the East. While the conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions accelerated Russian trade flows to the East, the need for a direct route to the Persian Gulf and Asian markets had been evident for some time. The influence of Western powers over parts of Russia’s economic and political elites had obstructed our attempts to explore this route. However, with Western influence waning, progress is now underway. The corridor’s development is unlikely to be significantly impacted by Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran, as Azerbaijan is a direct beneficiary of the corridor. Additionally, there exists a direct sea route across the Caspian Sea. The North-South Corridor will undoubtedly contribute to the expansion of Iran-Russia trade, which holds immense potential. I would even propose the establishment of not only a free trade regime between our countries but the formation of a common economic and technological space that would mutually benefit both Iran and Russia.

 

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