Iranian officials claim lifting sanctions on Iran will open up opportunities for increased ties with Russia, and there is already evidence the relationship is strengthening militarily and economically.
Mehdi Sanayee, Iran’s ambassador to Russia, says now that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran deal) has reached “implementation day,” Russian-Iranian relations can flourish, free from Western influence. Russia, a member of the P5+1 group that negotiated the JCPOA with Iran, is a close Iranian ally. Since the nuclear deal was signed last summer, Russia’s partnerships with Iran have ranged from support of their mutual ally President Bashar Assad in Syria to providing Iran with S-300 air defense systems.
“Over the years of sanctions [against Iran], the Iran-Russia relations were impacted by a third factor, namely by the West. In the new conditions, the influence of the third factor on relations between the two countries will be lessened,” writes Sanayee in a blog post.
Transfer of military equipment is the first step. In addition to air defense systems, Iran sent a proposal to purchase T-90 tanks from Russia in December 2015. The T-90 is Russia’s most advanced tank.
On Monday, just two days after the announcement of implementation day, Russian Helicopters was quoted saying “the lifting of sanctions gives an opportunity to provide the Iranian side new helicopters.” Russian Helicopters is the manufacturer of several military aircraft, including the Mi-28NE attack helicopter.
Iran also has plans to purchase Russian Su-30MK fighter aircraft to upgrade its debilitated air force. The Su-30MK is a highly capable, modern Russian multi-role fighter built for export to countries around the world. The fighter would serve as a massive upgrade to the current Iranian fleet which is made up of decrepit planes, most of which are over 35 years old.
Iran is also beginning to forge new bonds with Russia in the financial and economic spheres. Iran is currently awaiting a reply from the Russian Central Bank regarding a proposal it made to open joint Russian-Iranian banks.
“In the new conditions, Russian companies should secure full-fledged participation on the Iranian investment and industrial markets and earn privileges through participation in financing and technology transfer in this highly competitive market,” writes Sanayee.
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