MOSCOW, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Iran may become Moscow's number one choice in Russia's impending search for a new "reliable partner" in global defense and security affairs amid worsening ties with the West, a Russian military expert said on Friday.
Ties between Moscow and the West plunged to record lows in recent weeks by disagreements over the status of Crimea, which rejoined Russia after 60 years as part of Ukraine last month. In the ongoing diplomatic strife that followed, NATO froze all practical aspects of its military cooperation with Russia earlier this week, while the US and EU imposed sanctions on Russian officials.
"The current state of affairs can re-ignite the Cold War between Russia and the West... In this situation, Russia is compelled to search for new opportunities to sustain global stability and to build mutually beneficial trade, economic and political relations with other global centers of power," said Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense monthly Russian-language magazine and head of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade.
"I think, Iran may become a reliable partner," the expert said during a RIA Novosti roundtable.
He said that Moscow and Tehran should resume military cooperation if an expected agreement to lift international sanctions is reached during the forthcoming negotiations on the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program.
"Once the military cooperation is resumed, [Russia] should revive the contract to sell S-300 air defense systems to Iran," the expert continued.
Russia agreed a $800-million deal in late 2007 to supply five S-300 systems to Iran, then suspended the contract in 2010 in response to a UN Security Council resolution that banned certain arms exports to Tehran as part of a new round of sanctions over its nuclear program. Iran responded by filing a $4 billion lawsuit with an arbitration court in Geneva against the Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport.
The head of the Center for Modern Iranian Studies, Radzhab Safarov, said he was "90 percent sure" that an agreement to lift sanctions against Iran will be reached during the April 7-9 meeting in Vienna, paving the way for military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
"It looks like the third round of negotiations might lead to a breakthrough solution," he said.
The expert said that the standoff over Crimea, the worst since the end of the Cold War, would contribute to the Iranian talks, because "there will be a bitter struggle between Russia and the West to win Iran round."
Iran and the six-nation group - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany - have been negotiating a deal for Tehran to suspend parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a gradual end to crippling international sanctions.
In November 2013, the sides agreed on a set of temporary measures to limit the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities pending a broader agreement.