Iran Blames the United States For Russia's Invasion of Ukraine
Echoing Russia, Iranian diplomats have claimed that NATO expansion is the cause of the "pervasive crisis" in Eastern Europe.
While the Iranian government has announced its opposition to the war in Ukraine, it has refused to denounce Russia’s invasion and has blamed the situation on NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed on Thursday that the current Russian assault on Ukraine is “rooted in NATO’s provocations.”
“We don’t believe that resorting to war is a solution,” Amirabdollahian tweeted, adding that it was “imperative to establish [a] ceasefire & to find a political and democratic resolution.” In a similar statement, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry described the situation as a “pervasive crisis” and blamed the United States and NATO for what he described as a pattern of intrusion into the region.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO steadily expanded into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. The territory that had been East Germany joined the alliance in 1990, and a number of other Warsaw Pact nations joined the alliance in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Crucially, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which had been constituent republics of the Soviet Union until 1991, joined the alliance in 2004.
Russian leaders, including former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, have consistently characterized NATO’s expansion as a violation of an implicit agreement that the Western powers had made with Moscow to preserve Russian influence in Eastern Europe. This argument has also been cited by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and Iranian officials have repeated it when claiming that the United States is responsible for regional instability. However, although Iranian diplomats have implicitly defended Russia’s actions by blaming the United States and NATO, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi have so far not commented on the war.
Iran and Russia have developed deeper political and economic ties over the past decade. The two countries jointly intervened in the Syrian Civil War to support Bashar al-Assad, helping the dictator secure his position during the initial rise of the Islamic State. They have also coordinated efforts in Afghanistan and Yemen.
Despite their shared foreign policy goals, Iran has declined to recognize Russian-backed breakaway territories such as Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. Tehran has also remained silent on the political status of Crimea, the strategically located peninsula that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Iran and Ukraine have also experienced difficulties in their relationship, particularly since January 2020, when Iranian air defense forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner over Tehran.
It is unclear how the war between Russia and Ukraine will impact the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program that both Russia and the United States are participating in.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.