Russia in a Multipolar World: Russian Independent Media on Putin’s Visit to Iran

Russia in a Multipolar World: Russian Independent Media on Putin’s Visit to Iran

Evgenii Kiselyov, the host of the weekly news analysis program "Vlast" (Power) that airs on RTVI, an international Russian-language cable station, scarcely bothered to conceal his disdain for President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Tehran for the Caspian Summit. On his Oct. 19 show, Kiselev bluntly described the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "odious," and the regime he heads as "theocratic." Addressing his guest, the prominent Russian journalist Fyodor Lukyanov, Kiselyov demanded to know why it was necessary for Putin to visit Iran at all. Lukyanov, however, failed to take the bait, coolly noting that of the major world powers concerned by the Iranian nuclear program, only Russia borders Iran, and only Russia has relations with the Tehran government that are constructive enough to make such a visit productive.

Lukyanov's answer was revealing. Western observers believe, largely correctly, that the scope for independent media in Russia has greatly contracted under President Vladimir Putin. Nonetheless, especially on the Internet but also in some up-market Moscow newspapers and radio stations, there remains some space for media voices that, while cautious about criticizing the Kremlin or its master directly, nonetheless offer independent views. For Western observers trying to make sense of Russia's relations with Iran, such analysis has particular value, as it comes from sources that are genuine insiders, yet not subordinate to the Kremlin.

Below, I review a few recent articles from the Russian media on the Putin's visit to Iran. While some reporters may share Kiselyov's strongly anti-Tehran position, his view is probably not typical of Russia's elite journalists, most of whom do not perceive Putin's visit to Tehran as deplorable Russian support for a loathsome Iranian regime. Rather, what emerges from the review below is Russian journalists' conviction of Russia's renewed position as a great power in a multipolar world in which the United States is no longer dominant, and in which the U.S. alliance with Europe is attenuated.

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