Staunton, October 19 – Having already shown its contempt for the other Caspian littoral states by launching cruise missiles from its squadron on that sea, Moscow will be conducting joint naval exercises with Iran, again apparently without consulting Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan, according to Iran’s Fars news agency (interfax.ru/world/474142).
Ahmad Reza Baqeri, an Iranian naval captain, said that as of yesterday, three Iranian ships were on their way to the Russian port of Astrakhan. The ships include the destroyer Damavand and two rocket carriers Joshan and Peikan. Interfax did not provide any additional details on the exercises.
In Soviet times, the USSR and Iran divided control over the Caspian; but since then, there have been unsuccessful negotiations to delimit the sea among the five littoral states and to agree to how they could use either the sea itself or its seabed. In the last two weeks, Moscow has shown that it will act unilaterally.
That almost certainly has infuriated the littoral states. (See the analysis by Arkady Dubnov as discussed at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/10/not-one-cis-leader-spoke-out-in-favor.html.) But it has far broader implications for both the states in the region and the international system.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan would like to build undersea pipelines, something the US and the EU support; and Kazakhstan has already begun to carry out plans to increase its merchant and naval presence in the Caspian. By its latest actions, Moscow has shown that is quite capable of blocking either.