Moscow-Tehran-Ankara axis: Geopolitical reality or another mirage?

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column


Lately, several highly respected experts have been talking about the emergence of the new “geopolitical alliance”, namely the occurrence of the “Moscow-Tehran-Ankara” axis. Certain experts attribute Baku as well to this axis.

It has been suggested that this alliance can become a “geopolitical heavyweight” to spike Washington and Brussels.

Contrary to such bold statements, I’m skeptical about the existence of such an alliance. In my opinion, it may be a situational tactical convergence, that’s all.

Why don’t I believe in the viability of the “Moscow-Tehran-Ankara” axis?

First of all, a convergence of the long-term interests of the Alliance countries is required for the occurrence of such an axis. Are there naive people, who suggest, that the long-term interests of Moscow, Tehran and Ankara may coincide? Each of the countries is seeking to gain the regional leadership and has its own strategy and instruments to achieve the leadership.

Secondly, the elites of Turkey and Russia, as well as the economies of these countries are heavily dependent on the West and intertwine with it (especially Turkish economy).

Thirdly, all these countries are historical or ideological antagonists in one way or another, in this scenario it is difficult to talk about long-term geostrategic cooperation.

I would like to detail.

Turkey-Russia – in general, there are still many open issues between two countries.

For example, this year Turkey and Russia agreed on the supply of the latest air-defense systems C-400 to the Turkish side, moreover, 2 divisions will be manufactured directly in Turkey, so the Turkish side will get Russian technologies and will be able to use them in the future or share with NATO partners.

The amount of the transaction is 2.5 billion dollars. Is it worthwhile for Russia to transfer technologies to the country, which was only recently called an accomplice of the terrorism and accused of a back stab? And Turkey is to be congratulated on such a good deal. Ankara got modern technologies, annoyed Washington and got the leverage for future negotiations with NATO.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his recent visit to Kiev claimed that Turkey will never recognize Crimea’s reunification with Russia. I must say that this statement doesn’t fit even into the situational alliance with Russia.

There are obviously a lot of controversial issues and disagreements including Syria that can surface at any time.

Iran-Turkey, although Ankara and Tehran have been standing together on the Independent Kurdistan issue the last few days, let’s not forget that Iran and Turkey are on opposing sides in Syria and this cannot fail to affect the common track.

In addition there is an important religious and geopolitical element between two countries: Shia Iran is struggling for primacy in the region, which was a part of Sunni Ottoman Empire while Ankara has its own views on it. Syria is just one front of this battle.

Russia-Iran, contrary to popular belief among Russian experts, it’s a stretch to call Iran Russia’s ally.

Right now there are several contentious issues between Tehran and Moscow. The first is the presence of Iran in Syria. Iranians, in fact, are getting in Russia’s way limiting the room for maneuver for Russian diplomacy and exacerbating their relations with Israel. Moscow would be happy to exclude Iran from participation in the Syrian conflict and thus take the initiative and get all the benefits. But, unfortunately, right now it is impossible. Tehran is also not happy about Russian military presence in Syria, although they recognize that it was Russian military that helped to turn the tide of war.

Another painful issue in Iran-Russia relations is a potential Russia’s military-technical cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Tehran is extremely jealous of Saudi-Russian contacts. This didn’t, however, prevent them from placing large orders (Boeing & Airbus) in the West, for the civil aviation needs, bypassing Russian aviation industry enterprises, after the lifting of sanctions. Despite the fact that, namely, Russian diplomacy, was calling for the lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions.

As for Azerbaijan, some experts call the country a part of this axis. Experts, who are familiar with the region and aware of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan, which is being pursued for many years, will immediately tell this isn’t real. This policy is about a balance in the relations with global and regional players. In addition, Azerbaijan is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

At the same time, Baku as an exporter of energy resources is closely linked with the Western partners.

Of course, it is impossible to describe each aspect in one article, but I tried to provide a brief overview.

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