A developing Iranian-Russian partnership has roots in the often neglected Caspian, where infrastructure investment and the North-South Transport Corridor tell the real story of the relationship between these two powerhouse.
The Russian Caspian port of Astrakhan sits at the mouth of the Volga River, a transport artery for trade with Iran and other Caspian states. The port also plays an important role in the North-South Transport Corridor, which links Russia with India. In December of 2015, the FAS pre-approved the acquisition of a controlling stake of the port’s shares by Iranian shipping firm Nasim Bakhr Kish (NBK). In December of 2016, Iranian interests won a bid for Russia’s other Caspian port Makhachkala in Dagestan, which would extend Iranian influence into the Northern Caucasus in Russia.
Ports are critical strategic assets and Russia closely guards ownership as different national elites and international players compete for the country’s maritime infrastructure. Now that Iranian firms have controlling stakes in both of Russia’s Caspian ports, it appears Russia is comfortable ceding ownership of port assets to Iran.