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Putin’s End-of-Year Media Conference

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In his wide-ranging annual media conference held Dec 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin expects the newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration to build back better relations with Russia and further to cooperate in resolving a number of pressing regional problems around the world.

Russia and United States relations have slipped downward, many issues have still remained unresolved during the past years. Russia is, currently slapped with Western and European sanctions. Russia has also stepped up confrontation with Western and European powers over many of these issues.

“The Russian-U.S. relations have become a hostage of the U.S. domestic policy. In my opinion, it’s bad for them but it’s their choice, let them do what they want. We believe the U.S. president-elect will sort things out due to his domestic and foreign policy experience and hope that all arising problems, if not all then at least some of them, will be resolved during the tenure of the next administration,” Putin said at his annual press conference.

For example, speaking about new arms race, the president made it clear that this race has been going on for a long time – since the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. The only arms control agreement that is still in effect is the New START Treaty, and even that, according to Putin, will end in February 2021. That however, Moscow is ready for dialogue on this topic with the new US administration.

The other issues of international relations focused on Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan. Touching on the steps by the Ukrainian leadership to resolve the conflict in Donbass, Putin noted that Russia will not only continue, but will bolster its support for Donbass. As for Nagorno-Karabakh, Putin said that the situation there erupted not as a result of outside interference.

Referring to interference in each other affairs, Putin explicitly pointed in his comments at the conference attended by both local and foreign reporters that Russian hackers did not help the Donald Trump campaign and did not interfere in the U.S. electoral process.

“Russian hackers did not help the incumbent U.S. president get elected and did not interfere in internal affairs of that great nation. That’s mere hearsay aimed to spoil relations between Russia and the United States and to deny recognition to the legitimacy of the incumbent U.S. president for U.S. domestic political considerations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia knows that there will be attempts to interfere in the elections to the State Duma in 2021 from the outside, but it is capable of countering them. “Of course, there’ll be attempts to interfere; they always act this way, and not only in our elections but virtually around the world. This is global politics, both as concerns bases around the world and interference around the world. We know this and are preparing for this,” Putin said.

During the conference that lasted for about four and half hours, and intended to round up or summarized activities of the year, Putin also discussed at length various important questions both internal and external, particularly the economy and health central to Russians. Some of the domestic issues are discussed as follows.

Coronavirus Pandemic and Vaccine

On the current situation with coronavirus, Putin reminded efforts that are being taken inside Russia, called to global cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. While Russia claims to be the first in the race for vaccine, Putin said that cooperation between the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, and that of AstraZeneca on a coronavirus vaccine is particularly important for the whole world.

“There are a lot of rumors indeed, but I wouldn’t like to talk about this to the whole country and the whole world, especially considering that we don’t see any evidence confirming the accusations leveled at anyone. We should focus on something else, not look for culprits but combine efforts to fight the problem, and this would be the right line of our cooperation,” he said

The Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca is ready to work with Russia, and is in the process of signing a corresponding agreement. This is very good especially top-notch specialists – this is a large and good company with a global reputation – join forces, including with their Russian partners.

“Thank God, our foreign colleagues turned their faces towards us too and are ready for cooperation, they’re struggling with something, and the AstraZeneca company is ready to work with us, a relevant agreement is signed now. It is excellent, I am happy when experts of such a high level, – and it’s a good major company that’s internationally renowned – when they join efforts with Russian partners among others, I am sure the results will be a very good thing not only for our citizens, but the whole world,” he said.

Putin explained that as the pandemic ranges on, millions of coronavirus vaccine doses will have be produced in Russia at the beginning of next year. The primary objective is to vaccinate the Russian population. “Production of this vaccine requires relevant plants, enterprises, and hardware – all that will be scaled up. I expect all of these plans to be fulfilled and production of millions of vaccine doses to be ensured next year, at the beginning of the year,” he said.

With regard to cooperation with other countries, it will boost the technological capabilities, enterprises to produce the vaccine, foreign countries will invest their own money into expanding their production capacities and purchasing the corresponding equipment.

Foreign countries will be investing in these projects: the enlargement of production facilities and the purchase of equipment. “As for cooperation with foreign countries: nothing is stopping us from manufacturing vaccine components at facilities in other countries precisely because we need time to enhance technological capacities of our vaccine manufacturing enterprises. This does not hinder vaccination in the Russian Federation in any way,” he said.

Domestic politics, Employment and Living Standards

He spoke extensively about domestic economy and measures that are needed to improve the situation. “We all know that this was a challenging year, to an extent that I can hardly find the right words to describe it. It is a matter of concern for all of us: the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only Russia, but also the entire world has been hit by this scourge,” he stressed.

What is a pandemic? It means lockdowns, curbed production, declining passenger and cargo traffic and all that goes with it. Unfortunately, it also means fewer jobs, and lower incomes. This has all become a reality.

“As I have said at the outset, this is a challenging situation. When I said that the pandemic caused the shutdown of several manufacturers, rising unemployment and a decline in disposable incomes, these were not empty words, and not something that can be overlooked. This means that we see and understand what is going on,” he said.

Unemployment rate in Russian was 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2020; now, as you know, it has grown to 6.3 percent, he pointed out, and added, “Everything we do to support the economy, to support the affected industries, is aimed at maintaining employment. We have [unemployment at] 6.3 percent now, but I hope that over the next year, we will be able to bring it down to the earlier figures. A positive trade balance be considered as a good indicator. It creates conditions for good macroeconomic development.”

Some statistics have shown that in 2000, 29 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Almost one third of the country earned less than the subsistence level. One person out of three lived below the poverty line earning less than the subsistence level. In 2017, it was 12.3 percent of the population below the poverty line. Unfortunately, today this level increased to 13.5 percent, due to internal problems. Of course, 20 million people is still too many.

Of course, there is a plan, according Putin. Reducing the number of people below the poverty line is one of our key priorities. First, here is the plan: by 2030, the need to bring down the share of the population living in poverty from the current 13.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Having 6.5 percent of the population earning less than the subsistence level is still not good, but the need to be realistic. This is a far-reaching, but feasible goal, according Putin.

He, however, offered an elaboration on what should be done. “But the main point, is that we need to develop the economy, reach the national development goals and implement national projects that contain these goals, create new jobs, raise the economy to a new level meeting the latest requirements, as well as develop artificial intelligence, digitization and modern production lines that would allow people to have interesting jobs and receive decent incomes. The entire package of our measures envisaged by the national projects aimed at reaching these goals.”

Domestic Tourism

Putin used the platform to promote Russia’s domestic tourism. He urged the media, those who work online to support the development of domestic tourism, show and talk more often about the opportunities that the country and its various regions offer for Russian citizens and guests from abroad. In general, it would be great if Russian nationals explore domestic tourism opportunities more. They can benefit from the related government support measures and go to St Petersburg. There is no need to open borders for this.

Air travel has been among the affected sectors. “In this sense, it is definitely important to enable airlines to serve Russian destinations and for our companies to operate overseas routes. We have 32 million people flying abroad every year. Let’s redirect this passenger flow to St Petersburg. These people spend $35 billion abroad every year. If we can attract them to domestic destinations and thus promote domestic tourism, this would be great. St Petersburg deserves it. I am certain that we will succeed. It will happen as soon as it becomes possible,” he said about domestic tourism.

“The government should provide the necessary support, of course, infrastructural primarily. We will allocate appropriate funds for this; money has been earmarked. As I have said, we will support business in general, including regional businesses, and an agency is being created that is responsible for domestic tourism exclusively,” he informed the conference participants.

Putin’s first news conference in 2001 was also the shortest one lasted for one hour and 35 minutes. In 2019, Putin spent 4 hours and 18 minutes on the podium in front of the audience to answer questions from 57 mass media outlets.

As usual, the news conference was broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, NTV and MIR television channels, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. According the official document, a total of 774 journalists were accredited at the news conference, including 237 at the International Trade Center.

Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, there were special platforms set up in all federal districts (Tula, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Stavropol, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Vladivostok), where representatives of regional media participated and asked questions, while some representatives of federal and foreign media representatives worked at the World Trade Centre in Moscow.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

Russia

Russia, Turkey and the new geopolitical reality

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Putin erdogan sochi

The recent Russia – Turkey summit in Sochi, even though yielding no tangible outcomes (as became clear well before it, the summit would  not result in the signing of any agreements), has evoked a lot of speculation – ranging from assumptions of the “failure” of talks to fairly optimistic forecasts for the future of bilateral relations.

What can be seen as a clear result of the meeting is that the two sides acknowledged readiness for further dialogue. A dialogue is vital also in view of the fact that western countries have been curtailing their military and political presence in the region, which has thus led to the formation of a terrorist state in Afghanistan.

According to Sergei Lavrov, terrorist threat persists and has even been intensifying in Idlib: «Terrorist groups operating from beyond the Idlib de-escalation zone continue to attack the positions of the Syrian army, what’s more, they have been trying to act against the Russian contingent», – the Russian foreign minister told a news conference following talks with his Egyptian counterpart, after the summit in Sochi. A solution to the problem lies, he said, in “complete implementation of the agreements signed by Presidents Putin  and  Erdogan to the effect that terrorists, first of all, from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, should be isolated regardless of whatever new slogans they might come up with and for the purpose of quelling all these terrorist groups”.

As a final agreement on de-escalation in Idlib is expected to be reached, sources report a build-up of Syrian army forces along the Syrian side of the demarcation line, on the one hand, and a concentration of Turkish military groups, on the other (whereas after talks in Sochi the Turkish military started to retreat to the north – A.I.) Opposition representatives have been making aggressive statements again, even though in Sochi, Dmitry Peskov said,  the two sides reiterated their “commitment to earlier agreements, underscored the need to implement  these agreements by clearing Idlib of terrorist groups which  were still there and which could pose a threat and  launch a fierce attack against the Syrian army”.

Turkey keeps accusing Russia of breaching a ceasefire agreement for the northwest of Syria of March 5, 2020, while Russia maintains that Turkey is not acting on its commitments and that it is unable (or unwilling? – A.I.) to separate terrorists from armed opposition. For these mutual accusations the two presidents use politically correct statements, while their discontent over the situation is articulated by foreign ministers, press secretaries and MPs.

In brief, Moscow’s position is as follows: Bashar Assad is a legally elected head of the Syrian Arab Republic, the territorial integrity of which is beyond doubt.  A compromise with Damascus calls for similar steps from the opponents, whereas confrontation in Idlib and in other hot spots across Syria should be the responsibility of countries whose troops are deployed there without the approval of the UN or without invitation from official Damascus. These countries are known – the United States and Turkey.

While Moscow and Ankara are often at odds over the Sunni opposition, their attitudes to Kurdish nationalists are less of a clash. Moscow sees them as “mere” separatists who “have not been lost” for Damascus, while Ankara describes them as terrorists that should be eliminated or neutralized by a buffer zone which Turkey has been building and strengthening for several years.

Some experts and politicians believe that this will last forever. In 1920, the already not quite Ottoman but not yet Turkish Parliament adopted the so-called National Vow, which specified that New Turkey would include Syrian and Iraqi territories, which currently border Turkey. Even though the move failed, the National Vow is still, if only unofficially, seen as a founding ideological document of the Turkish Republic, the implementation of which cements the authority of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Moreover, areas occupied by the Turkish army (which make up more than 10% of the Syrian territory) are used for accommodating Syrian refugees, of which there are over three and a half million in Turkey proper. Turks’ growing discontent over the presence of such “guests” is adding to social instability. A new influx could trigger a public outcry in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for 2023.

In all likelihood, Ankara believes that any serious concessions in Idlib will entail the collapse of the entire “buffer zone” project and will invalidate three military operations and the multimillion investments. In addition, it will bring back “the Kurdish issue”, destroy the image of Turkey as a trustworthy ally, and will inflict irreparable damage on the reputation of the incumbent authorities.

Nevertheless, Cumhuriyet observer Mehmet Ali Guller argues that Erdogan suggested readiness to make concessions when he said: «We agree that the time has come to secure a final and lasting solution to the Syrian issue. We announced that we are open for any realistic and fair steps in this direction».

From our point of view, there is nothing about “concessions” in what Erdogan says but what is clear is that he is, if only unwillingly, beginning to accept The Syrian reality. After years of demanding the removal of Bashar Assad, the Turkish leadership no longer issues statements to this effect, though it refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the incumbent regime (contacts at intelligence agency level do not count), promising to withdraw troops only after the establishment of “democratic rule” in Syria. But democracy as seen through the Middle East realities is something vague and unclear.

Furthermore, Erdogan is forced to “re-evaluate values” by a growing tension in relations with western allies. The Turkish president, after years of speaking strongly in favor of American presence in Syria, is now calling for the withdrawal of the  American contingent from the country.

A consolidated position of Ankara’s western partners on Russia-Turkey relations was formulated by Die Zeit: during talks with the Russian leader in Sochi Erdogan played the role of a “requestor”, since he “missed a decisive factor – the West”, which he needs as “a critically important partner, which makes it possible for Ankara not to bow to Russia”. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did not agree to that: «We are a NATO member, on the one hand, but on the other hand, our relations with Russia are progressing…..Why should we make a choice [between them]?».

«It’s no secret that Ankara’s and Moscow’s interests in the region do not  coincide…..[but] The positive responses of the two countries’ leaders on the results of talks in Sochi suggest that Moscow and Ankara are prepared to remove all misunderstandings by dialogue», – Ilyas Kemaloglu, political analyst with Marmara University, says. Haberturk Media Holding observer Cetiner Cetin argues that American troops’ “flight” from Afghanistan and their gradual departure from other regions is creating a new geopolitical reality, which means that “Turkey might continue to distance itself from NATO in order to find itself among top players within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”.

While economic ties between Russia and Turkey are mostly problem-free, the political relations are often an issue. However, every time they meet, Putin and Erdogan manage not only to “quell” conflict, but to make a way for cooperation. The reason is that the two countries, despite their tactical differences, share the strategic goals: diktat of the West is unacceptable, the leading role in the East should belong to regional powers. As long as we share these goals, a Russia-Turkey alliance will be beneficial for both parties.

From our partner International Affairs

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The 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel

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Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey V. Lavrov’s article for the Israeli Newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth” dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of the Renewal of Diplomatic Relations Between Russia and Israel, October 15, 2021.

On October 18, Russia and Israel celebrate the 30th anniversary of the renewal of full-fledged diplomatic relations – the beginning of a new era of common history.

Turning to the pages of the past, let me recall that the USSR was the first country to recognize de jure the State of Israel back in May 1948. Of course, there were ups and downs in the chronicle of our relationship. Today, it could be assessed with confidence that Russian-Israeli mutually beneficial cooperation has stood the test of time and continues to actively develop in all directions.

Its foundation is formed by an intensive political dialogue, foremost – at the highest level. Inter-parliamentary contacts are progressing, bolstered by Friendship Groups established in the legislative bodies of our countries. Inter-ministerial communications are carried out on a regular basis.

Over the past decades, a solid experience of diversified cooperation has been accumulated in such spheres as economics, science and technology, healthcare and education. More than twenty acting intergovernmental agreements reflect the richness of the bilateral agenda.

Our mutual practical cooperation has significant potential. A number of joint projects are being successfully implemented. Many initiatives have received the support of the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The interest of Israeli business circles in entering the Russian market continues to grow. Despite the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, by the end of 2020 trade between Russia and Israel decreased by only 3.9%, and in January-July this year it increased by 51.8% over the previous year’s period. The key coordinating mission in these common efforts is fulfilled by the Joint Russian-Israeli Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, founded in 1994. We are interested in the early resumption of its work in full.

A special role in strengthening the unifying baselines of our relations as well as ensuring their stability and continuity belongs to humanitarian contacts. We appreciate the high level of mutual understanding between the peoples of Russia and Israel, connected by a common historical memory and convergence of cultures. It is encouraging that this thread, which has no geographic boundaries, is only getting stronger in course of time.

There are millions of Russian-speaking compatriots living in Israel, including descendants both from the former Republics of the USSR and from the Russian Federation. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War, survivors of the siege, former prisoners of concentration camps are among them. The fate of these people is of major interest to us.

Most vigorous rejection of the attempts of historical revisionism, combatting the distortion of the genesis, course and generally recognized international legal outcomes of the World War II have always united Russia and Israel. We will continue to coordinate our efforts, and specifically at the UN, to counter this shameful phenomenon.

While in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe Nazi henchmen are being brought to the level of national heroes and neo-Nazi tendencies are being revived, the memory of the decisive contribution of the heroic soldiers of the Red Army to the Victory over Nazism, the saving of Jews and other peoples from extermination, the liberation of the world from the horrors of the Holocaust is sacred in Israel. We see how Israeli colleagues – at the state and public levels – encourage the activities of the veterans and compatriots movements, conduct active work to educate the younger generation.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the law on Celebrating the Victory Day over Nazi Germany on May 9, approved by the Israeli parliament in 2017. It is particularly telling that on the 76th anniversary of the Great Victory, celebrated this year, festive events and commemorative parades along with the Immortal Regiment march were held in more than 45 Israeli cities. Thousands of Israelis of all ages as well as officials participated. This scale speaks for itself.

Cooperation in the field of education and science – whether through student and academic exchanges or joint scientific research continues to move forward. Every year, students from Israel get an opportunity to receive higher education in Russian universities. All of them are sincerely welcome there.

We hope that it will be possible to restore mutual tourist flows as soon as the sanitary and epidemiological situation improves. Russia is traditionally one of the top three countries in terms of the number of visitors to Israel.

The Russian-Israeli dialogue is vigorously advancing through the foreign ministries. It is obvious that without constructive interaction of diplomats it is impossible to solve a number of international and regional problems that are of paramount importance both for ensuring the prosperous future of the peoples of Russia and Israel just as for strengthening international and regional security and stability. From this perspective, diversified contacts between the Security Councils and the defense ministries of our countries have also proven themselves well. On a regular basis it allows us to compare approaches and take into account each other’s legitimate interests.

Russia is pursuing an independent multi-vector foreign policy, contemplating pragmatism, the search for compromises and the observance of balances of interests. Creation of the most favorable external conditions for our internal socio-economic development remains its backbone. We have no ideological likes and dislikes, or any taboos in relations with our foreign partners, therefore we can play an active role in the international arena and specifically through mediation in the settlement of conflicts.

We are interested in continuing consultations with our Israeli partners on security and stability issues in the Middle East. We always draw attention to the fact that comprehensive solutions to the problems of the region must necessarily take into account the security interests of Israel. This is a matter of principle.

At the same time, we are convinced that there is no alternative to the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a generally recognized international legal basis. We strongly support direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. A comprehensive solution to all issues of the final status is possible only through it. We are ready to work with Israeli colleagues, including multilateral formats, primarily in the context of the renewal of work of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators in close cooperation with representatives of the Arab League.

I am convinced: it is in the common interest to maintain the momentum. Ahead of us are new milestones and additional opportunities not only to continue, but also to enrich the positive experience of multifaceted cooperation for the benefit of our states and peoples, in the interests of peace and stability.

Source: Minister of Foreign Affairs

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The Emerging “Eastern Axis” and the Future of JCPOA

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Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh recently said that Tehran would further strengthen its ties with Moscow via a strategic partnership. Said Khatibzadeh  ‘The initial arrangements of this document, entitled the Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia, have been concluded’

    This agreement will be similar in nature to the agreement signed by Iran with China in March 2021, dubbed as the strategic cooperation pact, which sought to enhance economic and strategic relations (China would invest 400 Billion USD in infrastructure and oil and gas sector while also strengthening security ties). Commenting on the same, Khatibzadeh also said that an ‘Eastern axis’ is emerging between Russia, Iran and China.

    Closer ties with Russia are important from an economic, strategic point of view, and also to reduce Iran’s dependence upon China (many including Iran’s Foreign Minister had been critical of the 25 year agreement saying that it lacked transparency). Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the eve of his Russia visit from October 5-6th, 2021 also stated that Iran while strengthening ties would not want to be excessively dependent upon either country.

Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Russia

    Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian  during his Russia visit  discussed a host of issues with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov including the current situation in Afghanistan, South Caucasus, Syria and the resumption of the Vienna negotiations.

Russia and Iran have been working closely on Afghanistan (on October 20, 2021 Russia is hosting talks involving China, India, Iran and Pakistan with the Taliban).

It is also important to bear in mind, that both Russia and Iran have flagged the non-inclusive nature of the Taliban Interim government. Russia has in fact categorically stated that recognition of Taliban was not on the table. Said the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly,   ‘the whole gamut of Afghan society — ethno-religious and political forces — so we are engaging in contacts, they are ongoing.’

China’s approach vis-à-vis Afghanistan

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that China’s stance vis-à-vis Afghanistan is not identical to that of Moscow and Tehran. Beijing while putting forward its concerns vis-à-vis the use of Afghan territory for terrorism and support to Uyghur separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), has repeatedly said that there should be no external interference, and that Afghanistan should be allowed to decide its future course. China has also spoken in favor of removal of sanctions against the Taliban, and also freeing the reserves of the Afghan Central Bank (estimated at well over 9 Billion USD), which had been frozen by the US after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

If one were to look at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA/Iran Nuclear deal, Russia has been urging Iran to get back to the Vienna negotiations on the one hand (these negotiations have been on hold since June), while also asking the US to return to its commitments, it had made under the JCPOA, and also put an end to restriction on Iran and its trading partners.

Conversation between US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister

The important role of Russia is reiterated by the conversation between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with Russian Foreign Minister. Angela Merkel during her visit to Israel also made an important point that both China and Russia had an important role to play as far as getting Iran back on JCPOA is concerned. What is also interesting is that US has provided a waiver to the company building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. The US has opposed the project, but the Department of State said waiving these sanctions was in US national interest. Both Germany and Russia welcomed this decision.

In conclusion, while there is no doubt that Russia may have moved closer to China in recent years, its stance on Afghanistan as well as it’s important role in the context of resumption of Vienna negotiations highlight the fact that Moscow is not keen to play second fiddle to Beijing. The Biden Administration in spite of its differences has been engaging closely with Moscow (a number of US analysts have been arguing for Washington to adopt a pragmatic approach vis-à-vis Russia and to avoid hyphenating Moscow with Beijing).  In the given geopolitical landscape, Washington would not be particularly averse to Tehran moving closer to Russia. While the Iranian spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh spoke about a Eastern axis emerging between Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, it would be pertinent to point out, that there are differences on a number of issues between Moscow and Beijing. The Russia-Iran relationship as well as US engagement with Russia on a number of important geopolitical issues underscores the pitfalls of viewing geopolitics from simplistic binaries.

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