Russian President Vladimir Putin will leave his country’s sphere of influence Tuesday for the first time since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February — traveling to Iran for a sitdown with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei.
The despotic pair’s rendezvous comes one week after White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that US intelligence indicates Iran wants to sell Russia “several hundred” drones — including ones capable of weapons strikes — for use in the war against its western neighbor, with initial training of Moscow’s forces set to begin as soon as this month.
”The contact with Khamenei is very important,” Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow. “A trusting dialogue has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”
“On most issues, our positions are close or identical,” Ushakov added.
Putin’s trip is just the second journey known to take him outside Russia since he launched the Ukraine invasion Feb. 24. He visited the former Soviet republicans of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan late last month, though his last major overseas trip took place days before the Ukraine incursion, when he attended the Winter Olympics in China.
The Russian leader’s travel to the Middle East follows President Biden’s four-day swing through Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia last week — during which he assured Israeli leaders that Washington would not allow Tehran to develop a nuclear bomb.
The White House is currently trying to persuade Iran to rejoin the dormant 2015 nuclear deal that was also brokered by five other countries — including Russia. The most recent indirect negotiations in Qatar broke up late last month after two days with no sign of progress.
Earlier talks held off-and-on in Vienna have been paused since March. In the interim, Iran has shut off surveillance cameras positioned in nuclear facilities by international inspectors and now has enough high-enriched uranium to potentially fashion into at least one nuclear bomb if it chose.
Putin’s stay coincides with a visit to Iran by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders are scheduled to meet to discuss a deal aimed at resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, and Erdogan’s threat to launch another operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria as part of that country’s ongoing civil war.
The conflict is also expected to come up when Putin and Erdogan sit down with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who has warned that any Turkish military action in Syria would “destabilize the region.”
Any Turkish operation in Syria would attack the Kurdish YPG militia, a key part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that controls large parts of north Syria and is regarded by Washington as an important ally against the ISIS terror group.
With Post wires