Ships from Russia's Caspian Flotilla may make a visit to Iran next year, and the two navies may cooperate in the future, the head of the flotilla said. Admiral Sergey Alekminsky, commander of the flotilla, gave a 40-minute interview to Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy over the weekend, discussing the state of the fleet and answering listeners' questions about it.
Most reports on interview highlighted the mention of a potential port call in Iran. From RIA Novosti:
"I hope that next year, by decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it will be possible to organize a visit of our ships to Iran... There is a wish to see [the Iranian navy], because they are also developing," the commander said.
In his words, mutual relations between the Russian and Iranian flotillas "unfortunately doesn't exist yet, but there is a possibility."
(Side note: none of the print reports on the interview used the word "unfortunately," even though that's probably the most interesting word in the passage. So I added it in that translation. But I'm not making it up: Check for yourself -- around 11:40.)
Admiral Alekminsky also gave an update on the development of the navy, and mentioned the possibility of drones and "mini-submarines."
In terms of other relations around the sea, he said the Caspian Flotilla's "closest cooperation" was with Kazakhstan, mentioning that he had seen that country's new eponymous naval vessel, -- which he called "not bad" -- and that cooperation was close at all levels. He noted that there has been tension between Iran and Azerbaijan and between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over disputed oil fields, and "there could be war" over those conflicts.
What to make of the talk of Iran? Russia and Iran do have mutual interests on the sea, primarily in keeping the U.S./West/NATO out of it and keeping a trans-Caspian pipeline from being built. And Iranian state Press TV reported pretty positively on his comments. But talk of new cooperation seems more likely to amount to just standard military-military relations between maritime neighbors who have to get along. For the whole Soviet period of the Caspian Flotilla, its only possible enemy was Iran. And as Alekminsky said, Russia's relations on the sea are closest with Kazakhstan, and Russia's flagship vessel in the Caspian made a visit to Baku last month. Still, this is a development worth watching.