Putin Visits Iran for First Trip Outside Former U.S.S.R. since Ukraine War

Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Iran today to meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, making it the first trip by the Kremlin chief outside of the former Soviet Union since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine. 

Putin casts the West’s attempt to cripple the Russian economy with the most severe sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine as a declaration of economic war. He says Russia is turning away from the West to China, India, and Iran. 

Putin’s trip to Iran comes only three days after U.S. President Joe Biden concluded his first trip to the Middle East as President. He just finished a visit to Saudi Arabia. 

Now Russia’s leader is arriving in Tehran to hold his fifth meeting with Khamenei, who is Iran’s second supreme leader, coming into power in 1989. 

Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said the contact with Khamenei is very important, and a trusting dialogue has been developed between the two leaders on important issues both on the bilateral agenda and the international agenda. 

Putin’s visit to Iran will coincide with a visit by Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan. The leaders will meet in Tehran to discuss a new deal aimed at resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports. Also being discussed is Erdogan’s threat to launch another operation in northern Syria, which Putin opposes. 

In Syria, Russia and Iran have prevailed with their support for President Bashar al-Assad. The West has called for Assad to be removed from power since the Syrian revolution began in 2011. But Putin has backed Assad, providing him with military support — most crucially air weapons — for years. 

Putin has made very few foreign trips in recent years, due to the Covid pandemic, as well as the crisis triggered by his invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24. His last trip beyond the former Soviet Union was to China in February, just before the Ukraine invasion. 

By heading to Iran for his first major foreign trip since the Ukraine invasion, Putin is sending a clear message to the West that Russia will build its ties with Iran, the United States’ major foe since the 1979 Revolution. 

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia and Iran had long been subject to Western sanctions, calling it the price of sovereignty. 

A senior Iranian official said that Iran needs a strong ally, and Moscow is a superpower. 

For Iran, building ties with Russia is a way to balance the clout of the U.S. and its alliances across the Middle East. Tehran is emboldened by high oil prices and is betting that Russian support could pressure the U.S. to offer concessions for the revival of the 2015 Nuclear Deal. 

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