Of course, there's self interest involved. "Putin and the entire foreign policy establishment placed a premium on setting an independent strategic course, and really playing up differences with the West," Sarah Michaels of Oxford Analytica says. "One of those differences is Iran, where Russia has compelling and lucrative interests in the defence-industrial and energy sectors."
But the Russian elite isn't stupid, and their concerns over sanctions, or worse, a military attack in Iran are supported by 3 main concepts, all of which bear consideration.
1. Oil uncertainty is good for no-one
Much of the authority of the Russian government rests on the economy, and much of that economy rests on oil.
Stefan Wagstyl of the FT wrote earlier this week that some economists foresee a need for oil prices to keep above a minimum of $90 a barrel to keep their budget balanced. Less sympathetic viewpoints say that that price may in fact be $110. The Russian federal budget, with all its ambitious spending projects, calls for a $120.
Problems in the Middle East have driven oil prices high, so its easy to see this as a boon for Putin. Yuri Y. Mamchur of the Discovery Institute told us that the problems in Iran and Syria are "wonderful for the Russian economy".
However, at best this is a short-term fix.
"As economists, we should always try to ascertain why the oil prices might have risen," Ivan Tchakarov of Renaissance Capital says. "We have only two options — either the demand for oil has increased or its supply has fallen. In my view, if the former, then this is great for Russia as it means that world is doing very well. However, if the former, then probably bad for Russia as supply disruptions created by such conflicts like Iran/Israel usually mean heightened global uncertainty and a risk-off environment. Russia does not do well under such circumstances as it is a high-beta place, so investors usually flee in a risk-off backdrop."
Ultimately, while a high oil price may help Russia in the short term, they suffer as much as anyone from volatility — something an economy as un-diversified as Russia's cannot handle.