Having trouble maintaining a steady supply of weapons for its war in Ukraine, Russia is again looking to re-supply its military with drones and surface-to-surface missiles, according to two officials familiar with the matter. Turning to Iran.
The United States is concerned that Russia will try to acquire more advanced conventional weapons from Iran, according to a National Security Council official who discussed US intelligence on condition of anonymity. The official said the government is particularly concerned about Moscow trying to obtain surface-to-surface missiles from Tehran.
Separately, a UN diplomat said Iran plans to sell hundreds of missiles and drones to Russia, which would violate a 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers. As a signatory to the 2015 treaty, Russia would be undermining the resolution, and one of the main questions is what Moscow is giving Tehran in exchange for the weapons, said the diplomat, who asked for anonymity because of sensitivity. The condition was also talked about inside information.
The diplomat said the sale would represent a significant increase in defense cooperation between Russia and Iran and could have “huge implications for the security of the region”. He said that apparently the weapons have not been sent yet, but “apparently have been ordered”.
Concerns about new arms sales to Russia came after Iran sold hundreds of attack drones to Moscow a few months ago. Washington says Russia has also turned to North Korea for artillery as part of the war, which has already been going on for more than nine months.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the United States has not yet detected the Iranian missile shipment to Russia. But he highlighted the impact that previous arms sales have had on the war as Russian forces intensify their attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure as winter approaches.
“We have witnessed a continuous supply of Iranian drones from Iran to Russia. You see drones target civilian targets and kill innocent Ukrainians almost every day,” Kirby said. “So we know they are involved in the work that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has recently Trying to rip people off on energy, water and other resources.”
Britain’s defense minister said in late November that Russia was “probably close to exhausting its current supply” of Iranian drones, but would likely seek resupply.
An adviser to Ukraine’s presidency told The Guardian newspaper that Russia has yet to acquire Iranian-made ballistic missiles. Mykhailo Podolyak commented that “Iran is under heavy diplomatic pressure and the protests have also put pressure on the government” not to supply arms to Tehran.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday that concerns about Russia turning to Iran to increase its supply of ballistic missiles “is nothing new.”
“We have no information to share at this time regarding current ballistic missile deliveries,” Price said. “But we do know that Russia’s brutal offensive against Ukraine has forced Russia to use a relatively small amount of weapons, including ballistic missiles.”
Lederer reported from the United Nations.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.