On Tuesday, July 19th, Russian President, Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran, making his first international trip since his invasion of Ukraine. Putin met with Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, and with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday.
“I am very pleased to be on the hospitable Iranian soil…We can boast about record figures in terms of trade growth,” said Putin in a bilateral meeting with Raisi, according to CNN. Putin also said that Russia hoped to strengthen cooperation on international security issues, saying the two countries had “good experience” in fighting terrorism.
On the same day, Iran’s national oil company signed a $40 billion agreement with Russia’s state-run gas company Gazprom, according to a statement from Shana, the news agency for Iran’s oil ministry. The deal includes the development of Iranian gas fields and the building of new gas export pipelines. Khamenei meanwhile hailed mutual cooperation between Russia and Iran as “deeply beneficial.”
Referring to Putin’s war in Ukraine, Khamenei also said the expansion of the western security alliance NATO had to be “stopped.” “NATO is a dangerous entity. The West is totally opposed to a strong, independent Russia. If the way is opened for NATO, it will recognize no limits,” Khamenei said. “If it hadn’t been stopped in Ukraine, it would have later started a similar war in Crimea.”
Russia’s relationship with Iran has alerted Western officials as Putin prepares to ramp up ground offensives in eastern Ukraine following his troops’ capture of the Luhansk region. “Russia turning to Iran for the help speaks volumes about the degree to which both nations, for their actions into different areas of the world, have been increasingly isolated by the international community,” the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told CNN last week.
Among the discussion topics between Putin and Erdogan was the issue of grain exports from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of blocking the shipment of more than 20 million tons of grain. Putin thanked Erdogan for his efforts to mediate between the two nations. “With your mediation, we have moved forward,” he said.