Iran has become Russia’s “top military backer” over the course of the war in Ukraine, and the two countries’ growing military partnership is “transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership,” National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said on Friday.
The Biden administration first warned in July that Russia sought to acquire Iranian drones due to the country’s diminishing stockpiles amid its struggles in the war, and since then, the unmanned aerial vehicles have proved to be fatally and destructively effective.
Iran has provided Russia with “several hundred UAVs to Russia” that have been used in its attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which have left millions of civilians to face the harsh winter with a power grid that faces a significant burden. The strikes have often resulted in blackouts and no heat or running water for those affected, which Western leaders have described as possible war crimes and the weaponization of the winter weather.
“In exchange, Russia is offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership. So I think it’s important for us to be clear this partnership poses a threat not just to Ukraine, but to Iran’s neighbors in the region. We have shared this information with partners in the Middle East and around the world,” Kirby said.
The administration expects Iran to continue its support for Russia’s military moving forward, and U.S. officials believe that Iran could provide Russia with hundreds of ballistic missiles in the future. Officials have seen intelligence to suggest that the two sides are working toward “the establishment of a joint production line for lethal drones in Russia,” he said.
“Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran on areas like weapons development and training as part of this collaboration,” he added. “We are concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with advanced military components. Moscow may be providing Tehran with equipment such as helicopters and air defense systems. As of this spring, Iranian pilots have reportedly been training in Russia to learn how to fly the Su-35. This indicates Iran may begin receiving aircraft within the next year. These fighter planes would significantly strengthen Iran’s Air Force relative to its regional neighbors.”