In a display of symbolic unity and maritime diplomacy, Iran’s top naval officer, Admiral Shahram Irani, commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s naval forces, recently joined the Russians at their Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg. The decision to participate in this event was not only a celebration of the Russian navy’s anniversary but also an opportunity for Iran to engage with other countries and showcase its naval capabilities. However, both Iran and Russia understand that their navies cannot match the might of the US or the West. This blog explores the significance of Iran’s participation in Russia’s Navy Day parade and the underlying motives driving their maritime diplomacy.
Iran and Russia Unite Symbolically: Iran’s decision to join the Russians at their Navy Day parade holds more symbolic value than strategic importance. Both countries acknowledge that they lack naval capabilities to challenge the dominance of the US or the West. Nevertheless, it offers them a chance to demonstrate unity and cooperation on the global stage. For Iran, this participation represents an opportunity for “maritime diplomacy,” a tactic that they have employed in South America and other regions. Iran leverages its limited surface ships to engage in diplomatic exchanges and promote trade and weapon sales with partner nations.
Russia’s Historical Challenges with Naval Power: Russia’s navy has a long and illustrious history, but it has also faced significant challenges. The country’s vast size poses a hurdle to projecting naval power effectively. Its naval assets are often restricted or blockaded in key locations such as the Black Sea, Murmansk, the Caspian Sea, and St. Petersburg. History offers reminders of naval disasters, like the 1905 Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War, which saw Russia’s fleet devastated off the coast of Korea. Despite these setbacks, Russia maintains its naval presence in regions like the Black Sea and the Pacific.
Iran’s “Maritime Diplomacy” Strategy: Iran’s approach to maritime diplomacy involves showcasing its naval strength and capabilities, especially in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, challenging the US’s role in the region. While Iran’s navy is not a match for major naval powers, it uses its limited surface ships to engage with other countries and build partnerships. For instance, Iran holds joint naval exercises with Russia and China in Chabahar port and the Makran coast annually. Participating in Russia’s Navy Day parade is a continuation of this diplomatic strategy.
Opportunities and Motives for Iran: Iran’s presence at the Navy Day parade opens doors for potential arms sales, such as drones, to Russia and fosters trade relations between the two nations. During the event, Iranian Admiral Irani also expressed Iran’s interest in selling more drones to Russia, showcasing Iran’s advancements in naval technology. Moreover, Iran recently unveiled a new cruise missile designed for maritime use, further bolstering its naval capabilities.