Roman Grishenin: 'We can forget some dogma when it comes to increasing our relations'

Date of publication : November 19, 2016 08:33 am
© Wikimedia
© Wikimedia
Russia’s foreign policy can be roughly divided into two unequal periods. The first one, from the Soviet Union’s break-up to around 2007, was characterized by a desire to integrate into the existing international institutions and receive a worthy place at the tables where decisions are made. In the 1990s, especially in the first half of the decade, Moscow was ready to assume a subordinate status. Later, however, it began to demand an equal say at the table. The second period began with Putin’s Munich speech in February 2007, which was largely an expression of the Kremlin’s profound disillusionment with the results of its previous policy. Since then, Moscow’s public pronouncements have not focused on integration as a goal; instead, Russia has enhanced its own capabilities and increased its strength. This change stemmed from the conviction that western countries, especially the United States, were not interested in recognizing Russia as an equal partner, and that any steps by Moscow to meet the West halfway would be used to gain unilateral advantages. Although Russia has not acquired a new identity on the world stage since the break up of the Soviet Union, it is obvious that Moscow no longer seeks a global role in the way the USSR did before and as the United States is pursuing now. Moscow is now convinced that the future world order will be based on competitive interactions of principal centers of power and not on any one power’s domination. With this belief in future power structures, Russia has limited its immediate interests to Eurasia. We asked Roman Grishenin, Deputy Executive Director of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund and well-known Russian political scientist, about Russia's idea of multipolarism and the Iran's role in between. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
The most key idea Russia has proposed for the future of international system is multipolarism. How is suitable this idea to the grassroots and elites of the other nations?
"It seems that history has not been a good teacher for our foreign associates. I believe that in today’s world, Iran, China, and other governments all agree on the fact that none of them wants to be reduced to a regional power only. In other words, their population, geographical location, or even their civilization and antiquity all demand higher roles than the ones they are playing right now.
"Limiting the world to one center will destabilize the system and lead to the formation of a tectonic fault on the surface. Similar to the impossibility of an earth with one magnetic pole a political system cannot exist with only one pole of power. It is actually not possible to form a political system with one side ruling and intervening with other country’s affairs. In my point of view, the US currently lacks both economic and political-military assets to assume a hegemonic position. The world system today is seriously discriminatory and the Western civilizations bans other governments alien to its civilization from voicing their ideas. The differing views of China or Iran with Western world is manifest."
Does multipolarism justify solely Russia's policies within the global stage?
"We have and will defend Russia right to express its views on different issues. We have, time and again, delineated our red lines, a matter of honor, in negotiations with our associates. It doesn’t matter who wants a mono polar world; our world will never turn into one. Furthermore, the nation seeking to be a world hegemon has to fully grasp the possible assets of ruling and the huge historical and moral responsibility of the task. Is the US ready for the task? My answer is No."
With respect to this Russian idea, to what extent Tehran and Moscow are in the same boat?
"I think that our future generation will be interested in the history of the relations between the two countries (Iran and Russia). Today there is a huge divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims and most problems in the world of Islam arise from this fact. This being said, the Russian Federation is made of a diversified religious and ethnic groups. Around 35 to 45 million Muslims, about one third of the country’s population, live in Russia. Most Muslims who live in Russian Federation are Sunnis. The Islamic culture and way of life has, without a doubt, had a major role in shaping the cultural atmosphere in Russia and this role will be bolstered in future. The conditions for peaceful coexistence of different religious and ethnic groups in Russia is 100% positive. This experience may even play a very important role in bringing Russia and Iran closer. We can forget some dogma when it comes to increasing our relations.
"Moreover, Russia and Iran are allies in numerous foreign policy subjects and they follow parallel interests on many axes. For example, none of them was invited to take part in the economic integration process. Neither Russia nor Iran received any invitation for joining the united Eurasian security system. Here we are talking of a system that has to include all countries in the region in its ideal form. All these issues push us even more into getting closer. But the most important issue for extending Tehran-Moscow ties is not love. Both countries have planned their every move for getting closer to each other. In other words, warmer relations between Iran and Russia leads to future preservation of interests for both sides and mutual gains."
In terms of bilateral cooperation, what factors could draw Iran and Russia closer to each other?
"I fully grasp that with sanctions being lifted, Iran’s position in global economic relations will change. We must make sure that the trade between Tehran and Moscow is fair and at the same time mutually profitable while helping the growth of commodity exchange. The importance of the meetings between high ranking officials of the two countries is more than ever since they can decide the main cooperation courses in the future. I believe that we must increase our cultural and educational exchange. We will be happy to have Iranian students coming to the Russian Federation for education and getting to know our culture. Furthermore, we are willing to increase the number of Russian students studying Iranian culture and history according to the regional framework."      
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