January 25, 2012
CONFRONTATION BETWEEN MILITARY BLOCS: The Eurasian “Triple Alliance”
Despite areas of difference and rivalries between Moscow and Tehran, ties between the two countries, based on common interests, have developed significantly.
Both Russia and Iran are both major energy exporters, they have deeply seated interests in the South Caucasus. They are both firmly opposed to NATO’s missile shield, with a view to preventing the U.S. and E.U. from controlling the energy corridors around the Caspian Sea Basin.
Moscow and Tehran’s bilateral ties are also part of a broader and overlapping alliance involving Armenia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Syria, and Venezuela. Yet, above all things, both republics are also two of Washington’s main geo-strategic targets.
The Eurasian Triple Alliance: The Strategic Importance of Iran for Russia and China
China, the Russian Federation, and Iran are widely considered to be allies and partners. Together the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran form a strategic barrier directed against U.S. expansionism. The three countries form a “triple alliance,” which constitutes the core of a Eurasian coalition directed against U.S. encroachment into Eurasia and its quest for global hegemony.
While China confronts U.S. encroachment in East Asia and the Pacific, Iran and Russia respectively confront the U.S. led coalition in Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. All three countries are threatened in Central Asia and are wary of the U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan.
Iran can be characterized as a geo-strategic pivot. The geo-political equation in Eurasia very much hinges on the structure of Iran’s political alliances. Were Iran to become an ally of the United States, this would seriously hamper or even destabilize Russia and China. This also pertains to Iran’s ethno-cultural, linguistic, economic, religious, and geo-political links to the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Moreover, were the structure of political alliances to shift in favor of the U.S., Iran could also become the greatest conduit for U.S. influence and expansion in the Caucasus and Central Asia. This has to do with the fact that Iran is the gateway to Russia’s soft southern underbelly (or “Near Abroad”) in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
In such a scenario, Russia as an energy corridor would be weakened as Washington would “unlock” Iran’s potential as a primary energy corridor for the Caspian Sea Basin, implying de facto U.S. geopolitical control over Iranian pipeline routes. In this regard, part of Russia’s success as an energy transit route has been due to U.S. efforts to weaken Iran by preventing energy from transiting through Iranian territory.
If Iran were to “change camps” and enter the U.S. sphere of influence, China’s economy and national security would also be held hostage on two counts. Chinese energy security would be threatened directly because Iranian energy reserves would no longer be secure and would be subject to U.S. geo-political interests. Additionally, Central Asia could also re-orient its orbit should Washington open a direct and enforced conduit from the open seas via Iran.
Thus, both Russia and China want a strategic alliance with Iran as a means of screening them from the geo-political encroachment of the United States. “Fortress Eurasia” would be left exposed without Iran. This is why neither Russia nor China could ever accept a war against Iran. Should Washington transform Iran into a client then Russia and China would be under threat.
Misreading the Support of China and Russia for U.N. Security Council Sanctions
There is a major misreading of past Russian and Chinese support of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Even though Beijing and Moscow allowed U.N. Security Council sanctions to be passed against their Iranian ally, they did it for strategic reasons, namely with a view to keeping Iran out of Washington’s orbit.
In reality, the United States would much rather co-opt Tehran as a satellite or junior partner than take the unnecessary risk and gamble of an all-out war with the Iranians. What Russian and Chinese support for past sanctions did was to allow for the development of a wider rift between Tehran and Washington. In this regard, realpolitik is at work. As American-Iranian tensions broaden, Iranian relations with Russia and China become closer and Iran becomes more and more entrenched in its relationship with Moscow and Beijing.
Russia and China, however, would never support crippling sanctions or any form of economic embargo that would threaten Iranian national security. This is why both China and Russia have refused to be coerced by Washington into joining its new 2012 unilateral sanctions. The Russians have also warned the European Union to stop being Washington’s pawns, because they are hurting themselves by playing along with the schemes of the United States. In this regard Russia commented on the impractical and virtually unworkable E.U. plans for an oil embargo against Iran. Tehran has also made similar warnings and has dismissed the E.U. oil embargo as a psychological tactic that is bound to fail.