The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision today to sign the presidential decree to forthwith supply S-300 missiles to Iran and the reported commencement of the $20 billion oil-for-goods swap deal between Russia and Iran effectively signifies the end of the sanctions regime against Iran. Putin has “liberated” Iran from the curse of sanctions. The Kremlin de facto opened the floodgates for Iran’s integration as a full-fledged member of the international community.

Moscow has signaled that it won’t even wait till end-June for an Iran deal to be negotiated by the Obama administration for restoring the strategic partnership with Iran as a ‘normal country’. Hmm. The Kremlin beckons the world community to the birth of a a new world order.

Any whichever way one looks at the Kremlin’s move, it is a slap on the face of the United States. The message is clear: Moscow will not wait for the Obama administration to set the dynamics of the Russian-Iranian relationship — or for any international issue of vital interest to Russia. Of course, it is a strategic move on the part of Putin, but it is also a brilliantly pragmatic move, brilliant in tactic, insofar as Russia is taking an early lead over the West in rebuilding the sinews of partnership with Iran.

Clearly, Moscow has assessed that it is vital to Russia’s interests that the relations with Iran are elevated to the highest possible level in the quickest possible manner. This assessment, no doubt, is based on unambiguous signals from Tehran in the recent period that in the Iranian foreign-policy trajectory, Russia will continue to have a pivotal status, no matter the restoration of Iran’s ties with the West. (See my article in Asia Times titled A challenging time for Russia-Iran ties.)

What happens now to the US-Iranian tango is only of academic interest. Indeed, Moscow has also made the Republican-dominated US Congress and the hawkish American lawmakers look very foolish and impotent — and as yesterday’s men. This strategic defiance takes the Russian-American confrontation to a cold war era level.

Indeed, the ramifications of today’s development, signifying the coming into being of a Russo-Iranian strategic axis, are going to be profound on several theatres of international security in a wide arc stretching from Central Asia through the Caucasus and the Caspian to the Middle East proper. Simply put, the US is staring at a catastrophic setback in its regional policies on several fronts. Without doubt, Iran is a pivotal state and it is a game changer for Russian policies to have such a regional power on its side as a close ally.

Conceivably, Moscow and Beijing are coordinating their moves on Iran. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to pay a visit to Iran at an early date and Chinese officials had openly hinted that there could be some “dramatic” announcements during the visit.

For sure, Iran has taken a great leap forward toward induction into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

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M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat who served for more than 29 years as an Indian Foreign Service officer with postings including India’s ambassador to Turkey and Uzbekistan.

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