History repeated itself Tuesday in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg as Russia endorsed Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the victor in the disputed Iranian elections. It was almost five years ago that Russian leader Vladimir Putin endorsed Viktor Yanukovich as the winner in the falsified 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections and congratulated him on a “convincing victory.”
Ahmadinejad’s purpose in coming to Yekaterinburg was to attend a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which was set up as an alternative to NATO and whose members include Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Iran has repeatedly expressed interest in becoming a full member of this elite group.
Ahmadinejad made various hackneyed remarks about “end of the age of empires” and “international capitalism.” But more interesting than what he said was the spectacle of regimes that differ greatly from each other finding common cause in their shared opposition to their own people. The significance of this spectacle is that efforts to win Russia’s cooperation in influencing Iran are doomed to failure. Russia’s tie to the Iranians exists at a deep, subliminal level. It is rooted in faith that a cowed or misled population can always be manipulated. This faith does not convince Russians that a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands is no danger. But it reassures them that it will inevitably be aimed at the West.
— David Satter is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. His latest book is Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State.