In Syria, Moscow and Tehran have cooperated closely to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while the Kremlin serves as the ayatollahs’ major advocate in nuclear talks. The friendliness between the two countries can also be seen in the Russian regime’s tolerant attitude toward Iranian efforts to win the sympathy of influential Russians and even to disseminate Shiite teachings among Russian Muslims. Dima Course explains:
Tehran promotes a narrative that presents the Iranian revolution to the Russians in terms of a “distinctive conservative culture bravely fighting against destructive globalism guided by the West.” In addition, Iran attempts to use, and even enhance, anti-Western, and specifically anti-American, sentiments in Russia to bring the countries closer.
In 2012, a new think tank called the Izborsk Club was established to employ Russia’s anti-liberal, anti-Western, and ultra-patriotic intellectuals. [Since then], the gradual turn of Putin’s regime towards neo-imperial ideas and confrontation with the West turned [these thinkers] into leading commentators in state media and recognized experts of Duma committees, the government, and the presidency.
A few ideas published by the experts of Izborsk in the last few years deserve attention. These include [advocating for] the inclusion of Iran in the Collective Security Treaty Organization led by Russia and a proposal for Russian leaders to openly support Iran, even if it leads to a confrontation with the West. Furthermore, they call for Iran to become a strategic ally and allow Russia to establish naval bases on the Indian Ocean. Finally, they have also proposed sharing a sphere of influence with Iran and Armenia to weaken Turkey’s and NATO’s influence in the South Caucasus.
In addition, experts at the think tank promote the concept of spiritual and civilizational closeness between Russia and Iran. For example, the influential ideologue Aleksandr Dugin visited the country and was especially impressed by the holy city of Qom. Dugin has written about Iran and even completed a monograph in 2014 arguing that despite all their differences, there is a potential for a “Russian Orthodox–Shiite alliance.” According to Dugin, Shiite and Russian Orthodox cultures share the traditions of martyrdom and self-sacrifice for higher ideals.