For the first time since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin will go to Tehran on Tuesday to meet with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Putin will also meet with Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, the head of NATO, in Tehran for the first time since the invasion, to negotiate an agreement aimed at enabling the restart of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports as well as peace in Syria.
Putin’s visit sends a clear message to the West about Moscow’s intentions to establish tighter strategic connections with Iran, China, and India in response to the Western sanctions. It comes only days after President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Putin will also meet with Iran’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi.
Putin’s visit is appropriate for Iran, which also resents Western economic sanctions and is at odds with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program and several other problems.
In response to a rising Gulf Arab-Israeli alliance supported by the United States that has the potential to shift the Middle East’s power balance farther away from Iran, its religious authorities are eager to deepen their strategic ties with Russia.
Iran is wagering that with Russia’s assistance it can compel Washington to make concessions for the resurrection of a 2015 nuclear agreement, emboldened by high oil prices after the Ukraine war.
Although Iran’s petroleum shipments to China, a major source of income for Tehran since US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018, have been severely decreased in recent months as a result of Russia’s greater lean towards Beijing.
According to Reuters, Iran’s crude shipments to China have dropped significantly as Beijing has preferred to buy Russian barrels at deep discounts. As a result, there are now over 40 million barrels of Iranian oil sitting aboard tankers at sea in Asia and looking for customers.
Putin’s trip was preceded by the signing of a $40 billion memorandum of agreement between the Russian gas company Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
A treaty aimed at restarting the shipment of grain from Ukraine across the Black Sea is anticipated to be signed this week by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations.