Iran's Behavioral Pattern towards the War in Ukraine; From Balancing Foreign Policy to the Balanced Foreign Policy

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Islamic Azad University, Chalous, Iran



Introduction: The Ukrainecrisis turned into a warin February 2021 after the escalation of conflicts. What sets this event apart from its 2014 record is the breadth, depth, subject matter, and sides of the conflict. In the third decade of the twenty-first millennium, a security-military crisis broke out again and geopolitical differences between the powers led to a massive conflict in the territory of a weak neighbor. Moscow's stance is that the expansionism of its Western rivals through the eastward expansion of NATO is a military preparation of Russian geography and the direct threat against it. Theoretically, the war in Ukraine is reminiscent ofthe concept of “indirect balance of power” which is defined as the competition of great powers over a small or weak country and their conflict on its territory. The war in Ukraine has shown the breadth and depth of the offensive / defensive power on both sides, forcing others to support one side against the other. Iran, which previously pursued balance in its foreign policy based on the “Looking to the East” policy and promoted its strategic relations with Moscow, has taken a position based onits grand strategy. Since the war in Ukraine has gained international dimensions, any stance Iran takes on international structural disputes and subject to sanctions, will affect the country’s foreign policy.
Research question: what effects do the Ukraine war have on Iran's balancing foreign policy and does it lead to a balanced foreign policy?
Research hypothesis: The war in Ukraine has made Iran increase the geographical scope of its balancing measures and promote the “Looking to the East” Policy at divided (bilateral) levels; combined (trilateral); institutionalized (multilateral) and “regional politics” in the framework of restoration diplomacy.
Methodology and theoretical framework: The purpose of the article is to analyze the impact of the Ukrainian war on Iran's balancing foreign policy to show the process of continuity and change, outline the perspective of this policy and evaluate its results. Also, the goal is to critically analyze Iran’s balancing policy in the context of war. In this article, the trend Impact Analysis (TIA) method is used as a qualitative research method based on descriptive-analytical approach. TIA is a method for analyzing consecutive events in a given period to formulate trends by extracting data. Accordingly, events that shape or fluctuate a trend are selected as independent variables. Therefore, trends are the result of successive events as turning points. Understanding events allows analysts interested in tracking a particular trend to systematically examine the effects of current and future significantevents. TIA considers events as data and reflects trends by examining the relationship between them. Trends are identified with events and are defined as the result of successive events over time periods. The war in Ukraine has affected the balancing processof Iran's foreign policy in aseries of events that show the conflict between the interests of Russia and the West. Therefore, TIA is suitable for analyzing Iran's foreign policy and uses two theories; The theory of “balancing as a model of foreign policy” to explain Iran's foreign policy, which aims to prevent a great powerfrom attaining a dominant position or to counter such a position through alliances with rival powers, and the new theory of “balance of relation” which includes the concept of “balanced foreign policy” criticizes Iran's balancing foreign policy.
Results and discussion: The main subject of the article is to explain the impact of the war in Ukraine on Iran's balancing foreign policy. While inspired by the concept of balanced foreign policy in the post-Cold War era, balancing foreign policy was theoretically formulated within realism concept as a behavioral model of the Cold War era. To explain Iran's behavior towards the war, the foreign balancing theorized by Waltz and Morgenthau was mentioned. Studies show that Iran's balancing foreign policy within the framework “Looking to the East” has been revived after the withdrawal of U.S. from the JCPOA and expanded with the warbetween Russia and Ukraine. From Iran’s point of view, the anti-hegemonic nature of the war and the prospect of continued conflict between the West is based on its foreign policy. Iran has expanded its relations with rising powers in the framework of the “Looking tothe east again” policy, through which Russia is military-security ally and China is an economic-trade partner. Furthermore, Iran seeks to form a strategic triangle including Tehran-Moscow-Beijing. Also, Iran’s diplomatic actions, including membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS and the creation of economic blocks for Asia, show that it considers the war as an institutionalized way toadjustits “Looking to the East” policy and expand its balancing foreign policy. Finally, Iran has expanded balancing and has undertaken diplomacyto rebuild the region.
Conclusion: The goal of Iran's balancing foreign policy isto reduce structural pressures by expanding relations with the emerging powers, reducing the consensus of great powers and the ability of the United States to delegitimize Iran at the international level. The “Looking to the East” approach is based on the balance of power during the Cold War. Today, countries act based on a different logic of balancing and adaption to international power dynamics. The logic is based on the balance of relations, diversifyingpartners from the different poles of power, avoiding alliances with one power against another and focusing on balance in interaction with great powers, whether old / new or West / East. Therefore, although in the dominant discourse of Iran's foreign policy, the classical balancing act originating from the cold war era is strategically necessary, but it lacks strategic sufficiency; because it does not include the diversity of orientation in geographical and thematic areas and therefore does not lead to a balanced foreign policy. The countries strategy in the balanced foreign policy is aimed at achieving interests in various subject areas through communication with a wide range of great powers without conflict, while this strategy has no place in Iran's foreign policy.


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