The Russian military, burning through munition stockpiles unsustainably in Ukraine, has found an eager new supplier of drones and missiles. Arms transfers from Iran are boosting Russia’s faltering effort, but the sales’ second-order effects are a boon to the Islamic Republic’s malign objectives as well.
Despite Tehran’s claims of neutrality, Iranian weapons first made their way to the Ukrainian battlefield months ago. Russian forces are using surveillance and “kamikaze” drones, which crash into their targets and explode on impact, according to reports in Western and Russia-friendly media. The drones are relatively unsophisticated but reliable and can evade Ukrainian air defenses when deployed in great numbers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has used the new weapons to terrorize Ukrainian civilians and attack energy infrastructure. Russian aerial attacks have killed more than 70 people since October 7, and Ukrainians are suffering nationwide blackouts after drone and missile strikes rendered nearly one-third of the country’s power stations unusable.
Yet the effects of Iran’s support will reverberate far beyond Eastern Europe.