Libmonster ID: VN-1217
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. VASILIEV


Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Russian-Iranian cooperation, Iran's nuclear program, the Caspian Sea, the future of Afghanistan

In the noughties and tenths of the 21st century, Russian-Iranian cooperation had its ups and downs. Tehran and Moscow expressed both positive and negative assessments of each other. But the factors that influenced the rapprochement of the parties won.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: "I hope that the historical ties and cooperation between Iran and Russia will continue to develop. The Russian Federation occupies a special place in Iran's foreign policy, and the new government will pay high priority to this direction. " 1

President Vladimir Putin was also optimistic: "We know how much is currently going on in world affairs around the Iranian nuclear issue, but we in Russia know something else: Iran is a good neighbor for us, and neighbors are not chosen. And we have had a very large amount of cooperation, and we are sure to continue to do so. " 2

The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq objectively brought Iran to the role of the strongest regional power at the beginning of the XXI century.

The Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad was becoming an ally of Tehran. Iran had one of the most numerous armed forces in the region - from 540 to 900 thousand people, a growing military industry 3.

Russia and Iran sought to ensure stability in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, prevent any non-regional power, primarily the United States, from dominating it, raise trade and economic cooperation to a new level, and jointly fight the drug business. In the opposite direction, the factor of the Iranian nuclear program, the political, economic, and media pressure of the United States and other Western countries and Israel on Russia in connection with Iran worked.

Russia's attitude to the Iranian nuclear program has been mixed. While clearly recognizing Iran's right to develop a peaceful atom in the energy and other sectors and participating, despite Western pressure, in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Russia vigorously rejected the very possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. The eventual appearance of an atomic bomb in Iran was considered in Moscow an unacceptable threat to Russia's security, as well as to stability and peace in the entire Middle East region. If Iran had these weapons, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and then Egypt would be next in line.

Did the Iranian leadership have any real plans to develop nuclear weapons? This question is unlikely to be answered in the coming years. The author does not rule out that after the use of poison gas by Saddam's Iraq in the war against Iran, after the appearance of nuclear weapons in North Korea, which for a sum of reasons went unpunished, the Iranian leadership may have made a decision that we will conditionally call "Five minutes to 12".

It could have been a question of creating a scientific and technical potential for the production of an atomic bomb, if it had not been possible to ensure the security of the country and the regime by political and conventional military means. Behind-

Continuation. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa today. 2016, N 10.

The research was carried out within the framework of the Russian Science Foundation project " Russian Policy in the Middle East: Prospects and limits of cooperation with the countries of the region "(N 14 - 18 - 03615).

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Nuclear research, suspended after the Islamic Revolution, was resumed, and the first centrifuges for uranium enrichment and blueprints for their production were purchased from the" father of the Pakistani bomb " Abdul Qadir Khan.

The number of centrifuges reached approximately 19,000 by 2015, i.e. it has grown a hundredfold, not to mention the increase in the capacity of their second generation by several times. Old nuclear research centers were revived and new ones were secretly set up, and many Iranian nuclear scientists who had emigrated were returned from abroad.

At the same time, the Iranian leadership acted cautiously, given that even trumped-up accusations of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were a formal pretext for the invasion of the United States and its allies in this country in 2003.Both media and cyber warfare launched by the United States, other Western countries and Israel against Iran were taken into account.

In general, Iran has tried not to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and not to violate its provisions. But in some cases, his actions were not declared and caused suspicion and questions from the IAEA. At first, it refrained from submitting the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council, but then considered it possible, apparently under pressure from the United States and Israel.

Academician A. G. Arbatov, a major expert on safety issues in the modern world, believes that the early establishment of large processing plants was not justified by peaceful needs, especially since" fuel " for new nuclear power plants was supposed to be supplied by Russia, and throughout the entire life of the reactors. The fact that the construction of Iran's enrichment complexes was carried out secretly also aroused great suspicion.4

Russia, along with other permanent members of the Security Council, has voted in favor of resolutions on UN sanctions against Iran four times (since 2006). The crisis over Tehran's nuclear program grew in 2002-2005. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the 2005 presidential election in Iran. The policies and anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric of the new Iranian president caused a growing negative reaction in the West, which hindered Russia's actions aimed at a political settlement of the problem.

"The tension around the Iranian nuclear program has already several times approached a critical point, beyond which it was possible to launch a military operation against Iran by Israel and the United States," the authors of the INF review 5 believe. In an atmosphere of hysteria, they began to seriously talk about the possibility of an Israeli or American military strike on Iran. It was actually a regional war.

Says P. V. Stegny: "The situation was such that the Israelis were preparing to bomb Iraq.

Author: But they were stopped from doing this, dissuaded by the Americans, who are not interested in a new Middle East war, although it was they who supplied Israel with bombs for deep penetration under the ground.

Pavel Stegny: We also tried to dissuade them all the time.

Author: Well, you can listen to us and ignore us. And you can't beat the Americans.

Pavel Stegny: No, they listened to us very carefully. We even sent a team of three dozen experts on Iran's nuclear program to Israel. I didn't think we had so many of them. They were specialists who knew exactly how many milligrams the Iranians had there, and at what stage of development they were. They frankly told the Israelis :" We find it funny when you say that tomorrow the Iranians will have a bomb. It's actually at a very early stage."

Author: But, nevertheless, the Americans did not need this strike on Iran.

Pavel Stegny: The part of the American establishment that Obama represented did not need the war. Others were for the war. " 6

Another position is taken by I. S. Ivanov*.

Author: Was Israel ready to strike?

Igor Ivanov: I might be ready, but I doubt it.

Author: Why?

Igor Ivanov: I believe that both in Israel this issue was artificially inflated, and in Iran the anti-Israeli rhetoric with threats to "wipe Israel off the face of the earth"was artificially inflated. These were more propaganda positions for domestic consumption. And for Israel, I think it was hysteria during the US election campaign. It was important for them to ensure that both candidates, regardless of who wins the election, would assure Israel that in any case, the United States will support it. As we can see now, such a campaign in Israel is very serious. " 7

Russia has long blocked tough sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies on Iran. The task was labor-

* I. S. Ivanov - Russian statesman, diplomat. President of the Russian International Affairs Council since 2011. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia (1998-2004); Secretary of the Russian Security Council (2004-2007). Hero of Russia (1999), Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (1989). Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Noah: the Russian policy caused dissatisfaction in both Washington and Tehran. At the same time, Iran is unlikely to have made any meaningful counter-steps to help Russia, which has insisted that Iran engage in a constructive dialogue with the international community. While Russia assured its Western partners that there were no undeclared elements in Iran's research program, Tehran secretly built the Fordow facility at a depth of 80 meters in the rock formations. Up to 3,000 centrifuges could be placed here.

The Iranians have repeatedly disrupted almost reached agreements on the international exchange of accumulated enriched uranium. This put the Russian Federation in an awkward position. These circumstances may have contributed to the fact that in 2010 Russia supported another UN Security Council resolution, No. 1929, on sanctions against Iran. On the basis of this resolution, the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev Medvedev imposed a ban on the supply of S-300 air defense systems to Iran, which have already been paid for by Tehran.

Says I. S. Ivanov: "This caused irritation and anger of the Iranians, who sued Russia. However, this step of Russia may have become a significant factor that pushes the parties to a compromise agreement between Iran and the"six".

Author: What is your assessment of the fact that we, taking into account the position of the United States and Israel, refused to supply Iran with S-300, i.e. modern air defense systems? There was Iranian discontent, attempts to charge us with fines, etc., but it was a serious political decision on our part.

Igor Ivanov: I don't think it's about the position of the United States or Israel. Most likely, it was taken into account how much these supplies could destabilize the situation in the region. My point of view: if we did deliver the S-300, then, most likely, negotiations on the lifting of sanctions would not have promised success. Iran would have S-300s, but would continue to remain under sanctions, negotiations on the nuclear issue, which now (i.e. in 2014-A.V.) would have stalled. " 8

Russia did not support international sanctions imposed unilaterally, outside the UN, the United States, the European Union and a number of other countries, which turned out to be simply devastating for the Iranian economy.

In all cases, Russia opposed such actions. Moscow repeatedly stressed Iran's right to a peaceful atom, which was consistent with the opinion of Rahbar, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) Ayatollah Khamenei. He believed that the nuclear program embodied the main ideas of the revolution: the struggle for independence, the challenge to foreign states in response to unfair pressure, the relentless pursuit of self-sufficiency, and the Islamic tradition of respect for science. 9

In the face of tough economic sanctions, it was extremely important for Tehran to stabilize the economy and ensure its recovery in order to implement these ideas in practice. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013, considered the settlement of the nuclear issue as his foreign policy priority. It was about reaching a compromise.

The situation looked difficult for both the United States and Iran. In each of the countries there were opponents of the agreement, and in the United States, in addition to aggressive Republicans, the Israeli lobby was active.

The 2015 agreement took more than a decade to reach, with great difficulties, setbacks, and changes in priorities. The position of the Russian Federation, which was in favor of a compromise and a peaceful solution to the problem, helped in the search for an acceptable solution. The final agreement signed in Vienna reflects many of Russia's proposals. In particular, the "concept of phasing and reciprocity" proposed by Russian diplomats led to success. Its meaning was that every step of Iran had to be accompanied by counter-steps of the " six " and the UN to ease sanctions.

It can be assumed that in parallel with the exhausting negotiations of the " six " with Iran, the positions of Washington and Tehran were coordinated in secret, closed to the public bilateral negotiations. However, what matters is not the method, but the result.

Says I. S. Ivanov: "If now (2014 - A.V.) contacts between Iran and the United States on countering Islamic extremism are confirmed, it will mean that, oddly enough, they are at least running in parallel with the 5+1 - Iran negotiations. If they are further developed, this may be an important factor in a certain stabilization of the situation in the Middle East.

Author: Trade goes on: what will you Americans do in response to what we will do?

Igor Ivanov: It is quite obvious that if Iran pursues a more restrained policy in the region, it will help to stabilize the situation in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine...

Author: But for this he wants to get...

Igor Ivanov: And for this, he wants to get recognition of his role, at least in regional affairs.

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I believe that this policy is justified. Iran is a regional power, and if Turkey or Egypt claim a special role in the region, then Iran has no less rights.

Author: This is a thousand-year-old tradition. But at the same time, the Iranians are quite tough (and this will be the catch) to demand a reduction in the US military presence.

Igor Ivanov: I think this is a request position.

Author: Yes, demand a lot to settle for less.

Igor Ivanov: Ultimately, this is a matter for those countries that provide their territories for certain military bases. " 10

An extensive compromise agreement on July 14, 2015, meant significant concessions by the two sides.

Iran has renounced all attempts to develop nuclear weapons. It pledged not to enrich uranium above 3.67% for 15 years; to have no more than 300 kg of uranium enriched to 3.67%; and not to produce plutonium at the Arak facility. Of the approximately 19,000 total centrifuges at the Natanz facility, only 6,104 of the first generation remain. The rest should be withdrawn, and 1044 vehicles remained at the facility in Fardou. A number of points of the Agreement closed the plutonium route to the atomic bomb.

Iran has allowed UN inspectors access to Iranian nuclear facilities, including military ones. The IAEA will be able to conduct monitoring for 25 years. This means that about one and a half hundred representatives of the agency will stay in Iran for another quarter of a century. In addition, Iran and the " six "will meet to monitor the implementation of the agreement, meetings will be held at the ministerial level at least once every 2 years. In return, all UN Security Council sanctions, all multilateral and national sanctions, including access to trade, technology, finance and energy, are lifted from Iran. The agreement lifts all restrictive sanctions imposed by the European Union on banking operations, insurance and the SWIFT payment system.

Tehran agreed to the possibility that the UN could reinstate sanctions after 65 days if it violates the terms of the agreement.

Reviewing the Agreement of the 5+1 group of countries with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - JCPOA), academician A. G. Arbatov writes: "The JCPOA of July 14, 2015, can undoubtedly become the largest positive breakthrough in the diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear problem and the prevention of a new Gulf war with disastrous consequences for the region and the entire world the world. It can also make a historic contribution to strengthening the NPT and the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime and mechanisms. All this will happen if all parties strictly comply with the JCPOA and constructively resolve the controversial issues that will inevitably arise during implementation. " 11

And further - "The assessment of the document is that, despite a number of controversial provisions, it, in general, significantly restricts, reduces and rebuilds the Iranian nuclear technical complex, its development program, reserves and quality of nuclear materials, and also prohibits activities of a potentially military nature. The unprecedented transparency regime and the IAEA verification system are particularly noted. It is emphasized that objectively (regardless of the subjective intentions of Tehran) over the next 10 to 15 years, the creation of nuclear weapons by Iran, as well as any significant secret military activity, is practically excluded. It is emphasized, however, that the future impact of the Agreement on the nuclear non-proliferation system and regimes is much less clear. The universalization of the restrictive provisions and transparency regime of the Agreement as norms for strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is rejected by a number of States, primarily Russia. It firmly adheres to the position that the Agreement is an exclusively Iranian model, not applicable to other states, which is fixed in the JCPOA. The opinion is expressed that this issue will become the subject of serious contradictions between States in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. " 12

The Iranian nuclear program affected the entire complex of Russian-Iranian relations, which remained strategically important for both sides.

After the visit of President Mohammad Khatami to Moscow in 2001. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Caspian Summit in Turkmenistan in April 2002 and during the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia in October 2003.

Moscow and Tehran maintained common positions on a number of regional issues. They supported the US-led coalition against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. During the Russian-Georgian armed conflict in August 2008. Iran refrained from blaming one side or the other, which made it easier for Russia to explain its position to the international community. Vladimir Putin held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007 at the Caspian summit in Tehran, where both sides "expressed their support for cooperation with the aim of creating a stable international environment."-

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a more democratic world order that ensures global and regional security and creates conditions for universal development"13. These declarations demonstrated common ground.

On the status of the Caspian Sea, the positions of Russia and Iran somewhat coincided, but at the same time diverged. There were more discrepancies than coincidences. The development of a common solution by all the Caspian littoral states was postponed. The main disagreement was that Russia did not recognize the status of an open sea in relation to the Caspian Sea, considering it a unique body of water.

The Fourth Caspian Summit was held on September 29, 2014 in Astrakhan with the participation of the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. A number of documents were signed: agreements on cooperation in the field of hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea, in the field of emergency prevention and response in the Caspian Sea, conservation and rational use of aquatic biological resources of the Caspian Sea. The joint statement also defined the principles agreed by the parties for the activities of the summit's member countries in the Caspian Sea14.

By the time the summit began, an agreement was reached, in particular, on the inadmissibility of the presence of armed forces of non-regional powers in the Caspian Sea. Both Russia and Iran insisted on this, although Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan had military cooperation with the United States and NATO. The principle of freedom of navigation and use of water resources was approved, while respecting the national sovereignty of each country over the coastal sea area within 15 nautical miles and the exclusive rights of each party to extract water and biological resources within 10 nautical miles adjacent to each Caspian country.

Prior to this, Russia conducted a bilateral procedure with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to determine the maritime borders in the Caspian Sea15. Iran, which initially claimed 50% of the Caspian Sea, then lowered its demands to 20%. But the arguments continued. It was too early to talk about the delimitation of the seabed between Iran and neighboring states, given that the dispute was over the shelf, where promising hydrocarbon deposits are located.

The issue of transportation of energy resources through underwater pipelines remained controversial. They discussed the project of gas supply from Turkmenistan under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further to Europe as part of the so-called Southern Gas Corridor. Russia and Iran opposed this, justifying their position by concern for the ecology of the Caspian Sea. But it was clear that both countries were not interested in the emergence of a competitor in the form of Turkmen gas on European markets.

In general, there are still a lot of disagreements between the Caspian littoral states. "The Fourth Caspian Summit," writes Russian researcher A.m. Ivanov, "failed to achieve the main goal - to agree and sign the long-awaited universal Convention on the Distribution of Rights to the Water Area, Seabed and Resources of the Caspian Sea by all the Caspian littoral countries." 16 This convention was also not signed at the meeting of the leaders of Russia, Iran and Iran in Baku. Azerbaijan in August 2016

July 2005 Iran has been granted observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with Russia's support. Tehran's main goal was full membership in the SCO. Hopes were pinned to get it at the organization's summit in Yekaterinburg in June 2009, when Russia was the SCO chairman. Although the newly elected President Ahmadinejad arrived here, the case was postponed.

Given that the parties reached a compromise at the Vienna talks, in 2012-2014 there was a rise in bilateral Russian-Iranian relations. The Ministers of Culture of the two countries and Deputy Foreign ministers exchanged mutual visits. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Iran for the first time in four years. In February 2012 Iran's Interior Minister visited Russia.

However, economic relations were not going through the best of times. Iran's GDP fell in 2012-2013. 17 Consumer prices rose sharply, the exchange rate of the rial fell, and unemployment rose. According to unofficial data, it reached 19-20%, and among young people - up to 40%18. Inflation was rising, and many businesses went bankrupt or were on the verge of bankruptcy.

The volume of oil production decreased, and oil exports decreased. Due to oil sanctions, Iran lost from $35 billion annually. up to $50 billion. In addition, Iran was cut off from the international banking sector (SWIFT system)19 and insurance of sea transport, which dramatically complicated trade.

If in 2011 the Russian-Iranian trade turnover amounted to $3.75 billion, in 2012 this figure decreased to $2.33 billion.

Since 2006, the only major projects implemented by Russia in Iran have been the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the low-cost electrification section of the Tabriz-Azarshahr railway.

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Iran's disconnection from the SWIFT system in 2012 led to serious obstacles in the work of Russian banks in the Iranian direction.

In 2012, negotiations between major Russian companies and the Iranian authorities on a number of projects ended without success. After two years of negotiations, Gazpromneft refused to develop the Azar oil field.

The JCPOA agreement signed in Vienna carried both economic risks and opportunities for Russia. An increase in Iranian oil supplies to world markets could put downward pressure on prices. But Iran needed a lot of money and a lot of time to restore the oil industry, which had fallen into disrepair. The gas production and transportation infrastructure was in an even more deplorable state. Russia, with its vast experience in the gas sector, would be able to participate in the implementation of major gas projects in Iran. Cooperation in space research and aircraft construction was planned. Russian Railways announced its intention to electrify the railways of Iran.

The supply of weapons and military equipment remained the most effective and profitable field of cooperation.

At the same time, some obstacles to Russian-Iranian cooperation were objective in nature.

Russia had a weak competitive position in the Iranian market, and all services or projects were provided by the state or large businesses. From the Russian side, Rosatom, Gazprom, Gazpromneft, Lukoil, Zarubezhneft, Tatneft, Stroytransgaz, Russian Railways, Kamaz, and GAZ showed interest in Iran. The situation was similar on the Iranian side - the partners were Iranian state-owned or large private companies. So far, small and medium-sized Russian businesses have not been able to take a prominent place in the Iranian-Russian business cooperation.

Most of the Russian industrial products were not in demand on international markets, they lagged behind Western standards, although in some cases they could be competitive in terms of price - quality ratio. There were other barriers: insufficient information about each other, strong bureaucracy on both sides, extremely low level of humanitarian ties, insignificant exchange of tourists.

Doing business in Iran was quite difficult. According to the World Bank data for 2013, the investor protection index in Iran was 147. For comparison: the index of New Zealand - 1, USA-6, Russia-115, Afghanistan-189 20.

Joint actions in the fight against Islamic extremists and terrorists served as the basis for cooperation between Russia and Iran in political and military-technical cooperation. But more on that later.

I will quote, however, the opinion of the Iranian researcher Kai-khan Barzegar: "... the agreement on the nuclear issue between Iran and the five plus one group, as well as the possibility of rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, provoked the judgment that in the new circumstances, Iran's contacts with Russia will no longer be as warm and extensive as before. But detente in the American direction does not necessarily have to come at the expense of abandoning traditional ties with Moscow. Rather, it promises them new potential.

...They (relations between Iran and Russia - A.V.) are based primarily on strategic logic and the need to defend the interests of the two countries in the field of security, and not economic self - interest, which, of course, is the next priority. Meanwhile, the rapprochement with the United States in the new circumstances is more due to economic, political and military threats on their part, rather than the desire to establish close strategic relations with this power. ... Russia appreciates the role played by Tehran and welcomes a strong and confident Iran that can be an anchor of stability on its southern borders. Russia also believes in the need to strengthen the statehood of the regional Powers. " 21

Russian-Iranian cooperation in Syria is a special topic.


Afghanistan, it would seem, has become a distant state for Russia. Between them lie thousands of kilometers of distance and vast territories of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. After the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in Moscow in the 90s, they tried to forget about it. Failed. It wasn't just that Russian society was still bleeding from the wounds of that war. Threats emanating from Afghanistan could destabilize the former Soviet Central Asian republics and spread to Kazakhstan and directly to Russia. Therefore, after September 11, 2001, the US operation together with its NATO allies against the Taliban was supported by Moscow.

Armed formations of the Northern Alliance, primarily Tajiks and Uzbeks, supplied by Russia and Iran, took Kabul before the Americans arrived. Providing transport corridors through Russia for NATO troops in Afghanistan helped them solve their logistical problems. It was raining!-

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what kind of information exchange. But, as already noted, the cooperation did not go any further. The Afghan tangle turned out to be complicated and multi-layered. Therefore, the author prefers to give the floor to a first-class expert on Afghanistan, diplomat, orientalist, former Russian Ambassador to Kabul (2002-2004).

Says M. A. Konarovsky*: "The rule of the Taliban was characterized by a rigid theocratic dictatorship. The country plunged into the real Middle Ages. Despite this, the Taliban might have been able to hold on to power for quite a long time if not for Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden decided to set up his main base in the local mountains. As for the Americans, it seems to me that they were largely forced to enter Afghanistan. At one time, Washington was even inclined to recognize the Taliban regime, tried to convince us, and told us: "Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with them." I remember this very well, because at that time I worked at our embassy in Washington, dealing, among other things, with the Afghan problem. The Taliban, on the other hand, were largely a creation of Pakistan. The Clinton administration tried to use this factor to its advantage. After the September 11 attacks, the Americans had nowhere to go. They fell into the trap. Life forced them to get involved more and more, to take on more obligations, including the reconstruction of the "new Afghanistan" according to their cliches and Western patterns. What this led to, we see today-the final (or not quite) withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country is approaching, with none of its problems unresolved against the background of continuing instability, explosive risks and potential threats to its neighbors.

Author: At the beginning of the century, we no longer followed the "pro-Western" course of the early 90s...

M. A. Konarovsky: This is true. However, immediately after the collapse of the USSR, Russia could hardly have behaved differently, since the then top political leadership of the country believed that it was necessary to get rid of the entire "Soviet legacy" as completely unnecessary and harmful. It did not understand that the geopolitical interests of the state do not depend on ideology. The desire to "enter the West" in any way and a simplified understanding of the world order have led to those mistakes that will be painful for us for a long time to come. Therefore, it was necessary to correct mistakes in the zero years, and even now. After all, look: Russian foreign policy largely repeats what the Soviet Union did: improving relations with the third world, with past allies, striving to establish strategic partnership with the countries of the former USSR, and restoring relations with Beijing. Although there are still many challenges, and the current aggravation of relations between Russia and the West can and most likely will become a new watershed in the entire world politics.

Author: Do you think that the refusal to support the Najibullah regime after the collapse of the USSR was a mistake?

Mikhail Konarovsky: It's hard to say. It is easy for us to judge from today. Neither the Mujahideen nor the West needed Najibullah either as a political figure or as a person. As a former ally, Russia also lost him, which can also be interpreted as the fact that he was abandoned. The same pattern was observed for former allies in other countries.

Author: What was Russia's attitude to the Taliban?

M. A. Konarovsky: Naturally, it is negative. When the Mujahideen who came to power had to fight for survival with the Taliban, they did not hesitate to turn to Russia for help. And they got it, and we helped them a lot... History, in general, is an interesting thing, and it is not always easy to imagine how it will behave at a particular moment. Our task was to help the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, which relied mainly on the formation of former Mujahideen from the Northern Alliance. Prevent the Taliban from taking over the entire country and reaching the borders of the former USSR. We have worked with the Americans in every possible way to ensure that they do not recognize the Taliban regime. I will say without exaggeration that a huge amount of work has been done on the Russian side.

Author: Do you think that Washington's non-recognition of the Taliban regime is an achievement of Russian diplomacy?

Mikhail Konarovsky: Absolutely. If Moscow had done nothing, everything would have ended completely differently. At the end of 1996, the State Department openly discussed the possibility of recognition. The Americans have also been actively working on this issue with some of Afghanistan's neighboring states, including Central Asian ones. The plan was that first the Taliban would be recognized by their neighbors, which Pakistan (and some of the most odious Arab monarchies) did, and then a chain reaction would follow.

In general, we will formulate it as follows: Washington judges the degree of democracy or non-democracy of foreign states solely on the basis of its specific foreign policy interests, preferences, etc.

* M. A. Konarovsky-orientalist, served in various positions in the Foreign Ministry system for almost forty years, from 1970 to 2009, having passed all levels of the diplomatic service-from translator to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He headed Russian diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka and the Maldives (2001-2002), in Afghanistan (2002 - 2004), and in Croatia (2004 - 2009).

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ideological postulates. Aggressive ideological messianism is the basis of US foreign policy, which took on new hypertrophied forms after the collapse of the USSR, which was for them an "evil empire" and period.

Please note that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, our foreign policy was de-ideologized, while the American one, on the contrary, became even more based on the ideas of messianism. At the same time, in the current international environment, the United States can take into account the specifics of some states and at the same time show open imperial disregard for the historical features of others.

It all depends on America's ideological, economic, and military-political pragmatism. And no sentimentality. But against this background, there is often a clear lack of logic, and just psychological hostility to specific leaders.

It is not worth waiting for the Americans to understand our positions, this is utopia. We just need to accept the United States for what it is and respond appropriately in accordance with our interests. It's better to negotiate. But to do this, you need to have strength and not only "soft". There should be no naivety here. It was the militant foreign policy naivety of the Soviet leadership of the "last wave" and the liberal Democrats of the first years after the collapse of the USSR that cost us huge losses.

Author: But let's go back to 2001. To what extent was our position driven by a sincere desire to be friends, and to what extent was it driven by pragmatic interests?

Mikhail Konarovsky: First of all, pragmatic interests. After all, terrorism was and still is a very significant threat to Russia. We behaved quite subtly, not directly participating in the military operation in Afghanistan. Washington invited us to join the coalition, but we tactfully refused. And correctly. And when the imposition of democracy by American standards on the Afghans began, which was actively promoted by what I call "American Afghans" in the government, when the presence of foreign troops, which initially was very beneficial to the authorities in Kabul, began to cause rejection of the local population - everything began to rapidly change the picture.

To sum up, the US decision to enter Afghanistan and destroy the hotbed of international terrorism was beneficial for Russia, but their subsequent attempts to "teach Afghans life" were a big mistake. Of course, some young elite was created, but, according to my observations of some of its representatives, in the words of the classic, "they are terribly far from the people" and from the Afghan reality. And this is the tragedy of Afghanistan.

Author: Did the Americans take our experience into account?

Mikhail Konarovsky: The Americans wanted to take it into account. They studied our experience, invited retired Soviet soldiers to visit them, studied books and memoirs of domestic "Afghans", and very actively involved the community of political scientists and scientific experts, including Russian ones. But in practice, everything ended in nothing, despite the fact that in some areas they operated according to organizational and administrative schemes, according to which in some cases the Soviet Union still operated. For example, they created so-called provincial reconstruction teams, which included large blocks with a military, economic and political component. With the help of such "teams", they tried to solder the central government with the regions. The army also tried not only to fight, but also to engage in reconstruction. In the conditions of Afghanistan, it was unlikely to come up with something new.

Afghan society is extremely difficult to reform. The fusion of tribal loyalty and conservative Islamism firmly concrets the development of society.

Author: How do you see the future of Afghanistan?

Mikhail Konarovsky: To be honest, I'm not very optimistic. To make a breakthrough in Eastern society, you need to have a very solid government, and not a Europeanized democracy. Otherwise, the country may again drown in mutual resentments and showdowns, in which neighbors will try to participate, some of which continue to look at Afghanistan as the strategic depth of their regional policy. At the same time, political players in Afghanistan itself have recently become much more numerous than in the late 80s. And everyone has their own interests.

Author: What should Russia do in Afghanistan?

Mikhail Konarovsky: In any case, Russia will not be able to stand aside from Afghanistan, although it does not have the same strategic interests there as the former Soviet Union. We will continue to build constructive relations with Kabul. For two main reasons. First, in the interests of countering terrorism, and more specifically, militant Islamic extremism. I think that Russia will accept any scenario in Kabul, except for the most odious ones, whose policy will undermine the situation in the southern underbelly of the country, i.e. in Central Asia. Secondly, there is a goal to reduce the flow of Afghan drugs as much as possible. Therefore, pacification in this country, helping to transform Afghanistan into a state that does not cause trouble to its neighbors, will be our key task.

page 9

But Russia should not seek to play a leading role in Afghanistan, especially since it will be opposed by others. It would be more expedient to remain in the background and respect our own interests, trying to avoid specific commitments that I do not rule out that some of our partners in Afghan affairs may try to impose on us. We should act together with our Central Asian neighbors and no more, defining for ourselves red lines that Afghanistan will not be allowed to cross.

Author: How do Afghans treat Russians today?

Mikhail Konarovsky: They haven't forgotten anything, but they are loyal to the Russians. Although the Afghans are also different. Those who came from America and took government and other positions remain anti-Russian. Although, I do not rule out that they may change over the years. In the initial period of the post-Taliban administration of Kabul, many of them tried to accuse us of all the deadly sins... Afghans, in general, are very rational. And having the opportunity to compare us with the Americans, they may remember the "Russians" with some nostalgia.

Author: Does the atmosphere of a new but limited Cold War affect the situation in Afghanistan?

Mikhail Konarovsky: Absolutely. The Americans will leave Afghanistan, as Obama promises. However, apparently, they will keep military bases there. New Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed an agreement on strategic military cooperation with the United States. Why do they need it? "Just in case," an American diplomat said to me recently. Washington is discussing the option of cooperation with China on Afghanistan to balance bilateral tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. They will not pay for the purchase of our helicopters for the Afghan army. Cargo transit through our territory has already been curtailed. But I don't think the White House knows what will happen next. But I am sure that if US cooperation with China takes place, it will be aimed from the American side at driving a wedge between Moscow and Beijing in Central Asia. So you need to be on your guard. And then there may be many surprises. The Taliban are increasing their presence in many provinces. The army and politics are unreliable. Mass desertion. Ethnic and confessional contradictions are intensifying. And here, alongside the Taliban, Daesh begins to actively operate. The United States and the European Union provide less and less money for socio-economic tasks. How else can you encourage loyalty? Overall , there are too many unknowns.

Author: In the current climate, will the United States ' refusal to cooperate with Russia on Afghan affairs continue?

Mikhail Konarovsky: So far, yes. Russia's soft underbelly remains vulnerable. Russia cannot but strengthen it. " 22

(The ending follows)

1 Hamshahri. 25.06.2013 (in Persian).

2 REGNUM NEWS AGENCY. 13.09.2013 -

Sazhin V. I. 3 Rocket and nuclear potential of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Moscow, MSU, 2011, pp. 33-34.

Arbatov A. 4 The nuclear Agreement with Iran: phenomenon or precedent? // World Economy and International Relations. 2016, No. 3, p. 6.

5 Modern Russian-Iranian relations: Challenges and opportunities. Rossiyskiy sovet po mezhdunarodnykh delakh (RIAC) [Russian Council on International Affairs (RIAC)]. 2014, NXIV, p. 12.

6 Interview with P. V. Stegnii, September 2014

7 Interview with I. S. Ivanov, September 2014

8 Ibid.

9 Modern Russian-Iranian relations...

10 Interviews with I. S. Ivanov...

Arbatov A. 11 Decree. soch., p. 10.

12 Ibid.

13 Yurtyaev V. I. Osobennosti i realizatsiya vneshnoi politiki Ializmoi Respubliki Iran (1979 - 2010) [Features and implementation of the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1979-2010)]. Moscow, RUDN University, 2012, p. 244.

14 See the website of the President of Russia -

15 See: "Agreement of July 6, 1998 between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on Delineation of the bottom of the northern part of the Caspian Sea for the purpose of Exercising Sovereign Subsurface Use Rights" and the Protocol to the Agreement fixing the passage of the modified Median Line, signed by the President of the Russian Federation on May 13, 2002; signed on September 23, 2002 " Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Agreement between the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the joint point of the Line of Demarcation of Adjacent Sections of the Caspian Sea Bottom"; "Agreement between the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the joint point of the Line of Demarcation of Adjacent Sections of the Caspian Sea Bottom" dated 14.05.2003.

Ivanov A.M. 16 The Fourth Caspian Summit / / West-East-Russia 2014. Yearbook, Moscow, IMEMO RAS, 2015, p. 105.

17 IMF. World Economic Outlook. October 2013. P. 75 -

Kasaev E. O. 18 Iran: economic situation and trade relations with Russia // Middle East Institute (website). 24.06.2013 -

19 Ibid.

20 Sovremennye russo-iranskie otnosheniya [Modern Russian-Iranian relations], p. 33.

Barzegar Kayhan. 21 Strategic necessity. Relations between Iran and Russia after the nuclear agreement in Geneva / / Russia in Global Politics. January-February 2014. N 1.

22 Interview with M. A. Konarovsky, 14.03.2016.


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