The Expanding Russia-Iran Arms Nexus

After deploying Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to devastating effect against Ukraine, Russia is now set to purchase Iranian short-range ballistic missiles—demonstrating growing ties between these two U.S. adversaries. Russia is currently the largest operator of Iranian UAVs anywhere, increasingly using them to target civilian positions away from the frontlines. However, Ukraine has reportedly shot down most of these drones. Ballistic missiles would be more dangerous than UAVs because they carry larger explosive payloads and are harder to defend against. Although Iranian missiles are unlikely to alter the balance of territorial control in Ukraine, they would further enable Russia to devastate Ukraine’s population and infrastructure. The United States needs to bolster Ukraine’s ability to neutralize both UAVs and missiles, push its European counterparts to invoke snapback sanctions against Iran, add new sanctions that can thwart Iran’s ability to manufacture or deliver these deadly weapons, and interdict their transport when possible.

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Ari Cicurel – Senior Policy Analyst
N. Nolan Judd – Policy Intern