Iran's envoy to Russia has said NATO's expansion is not in the interest of Tehran and Moscow, and there is a global synergy against Western “unilateralism.”
The comments came as Iran has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by blaming the United States and NATO for the ensuing crisis.
During a webinar about bilateral relations and regional developments, Kazem Jalali urged closer cooperation with Moscow under President Vladimir Putin, saying, “We are working with Russia on regional issues, and have a successful experience in Syria’s case”, Jamaran News in Tehran reported on Monday.
"Obviously, neither we nor the Russians see NATO expanding to our borders in our interest," said Tehran’s ambassador in Moscow.
Turkey, a NATO member borders Iran in the northwest but has followed a neutral policy between the Washington and Tehran.
Jalali added that Russia has stood up to American unilateralism, noting that this is the same approach that the Islamic Republic has taken since the 1979 revolution.
Jalali noted that Iran did not have good relations with the Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and in the post-Soviet period, adding, “The fourth era is the Putin era, which I think should be paid more attention to”.
Judging by the history of Iran-Russia relations, “some people ask why we should have relations with the Russians when we have such a history with them. We should know that during the Soviet era 25 million people were killed in the war with Germany” but that didn’t stop them to cooperate on the Nord Stream --the system of offshore natural gas pipelines in Europe that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
He added that “we should look at the realities of today”, underlining that Iran’s new government prioritizes relations and strengthening cooperation with neighboring countries, and “Russia is a large economy.”
Jalali went on to say that “our foreign policy should serve Iran’s national interests”, urging to keep a balance between the West and the East.
In fact, in the past 30 years under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Iran’s foreign policy has increasingly tilted toward Russia and China. In the 1980s, when the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was Supreme Leader, the country followed his dictum of “Neither West Nor the East.”
During the same event, former member of the parliament Elaheh Koulai described ties between Iran and Russia as one of the most important issues in Eurasia.
“There are bitter events in the history of Iran-Russia relations that have caused pessimism and Russophobia in Iranian society” she added.
She called for a balancing approach with Russia, Europe and the United States, saying, “we must try to use Russia to our advantage”.
Referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Koulai said, “Iran must condemn Russia's military action against Ukraine and demand that the two sides sit down at the negotiating table”.
As debate about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues in Iran, divisions reflect the political dispositions of various factions over Tehran’s foreign policy.
Hardliners close to the core of the regime fiercely defend a pro-Russia policy, while their rivals within the regime argue for more balanced relations between the West and the East, meaning Moscow and Beijing.
Many ordinary Iranians and opponents of the Islamic Republic invariably support Ukraine and condemn the government pro-Russia policies on social media.