In a phone call with Russia’s President Vladmir Putin Thursday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi called Nato’s “continued expansion” eastwards “a serious threat.”
The phone call, apparently initiated by Raisi, followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "The President of Iran expressed understanding with respect to Russia’s security concerns caused by the destabilizing actions of the United States and NATO," a Kremlin press release said Thursday evening.
Putin told Raisi that Russia had taken "a legitimate response" to decades of the “West” violating security agreements and efforts to undermine Russian security, Press TV, Iran's state-run English-language channel, reported.
“The eastward expansion of Nato is a source of tension,” Raisi told Putin. “The continued expansion of Nato is a serious threat against the stability and security of independent countries in various regions of the world.”
Ten eastern European countries have joined Nato, a military alliance, since 1999. With the Ukrainian government wanting to follow suit, Moscow had requested assurances from Nato that Ukraine would not be admitted.
Some Iranian journalists and media have criticized Raisi's call. "What is the justification for Raisi's call to Putin on the first night of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subtly supporting Russia?" Behrouz Azizi, an Iranian journalist who calls himself a "moderate conservative", tweeted Thursday.
Ukrainians fleeing the Russian onslaught. February 25, 2022
Others have argued that Raisi's views on Nato breach both Iran's official "Neither West, Nor East" mantra and its constitution. "Raisi violated Articles 152 and 154 of the Constitution without any qualms" with his phone call with Putin, Milad Alavi, journalist in Tehran, tweeted Thursday. Article 152 requires “non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers,” taken at the time to be the United States and the Soviet Union.
Rallying to the Ukrainian cause, journalist Saeed Maleki lashed out at Raisi, tweeting: "You've become so Russophile that you don't even dare to openly condemn the war on Ukraine and the killings. In the phone call all you can do is wishing that these have good consequences…Nothing worse than this could be said."
Russian 'Honeymoon' Won’t Last
Former Iranian ambassador to Baku, Afshar Soleimani, said Iran has not officially approved of Russia's invasion but is standing by Russia's side with "subtle approval." Ali Motahari, a former deputy speaker of parliament, criticized the state media for reporting as if "the mouthpiece of a Russian colony."
Others highlighted Nato’s role.In a series of tweets Friday, Abdollah Ganji, former managing director of Javan newspaper, which is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had set the course for war by visiting Nato headquarters last year. Ganji predicted Russia’s "honeymoon in Ukraine" would not last.
The Friday imam of Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, in his sermon Friday said Nato and the US were "meddling all around the world" and "complicating the situation" in eastern Europe as the European Nato powers were "beating on the drums of war."