August 3, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran and Belarus Sign Defense Cooperation Agreements  

August 3, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran and Belarus Sign Defense Cooperation Agreements  

Latest Developments 

The Iranian and Belarussian defense ministers met in Tehran on July 31 to sign a pair of defense cooperation agreements. While details about the accords are scarce, Minsk may be looking to Tehran for arms, which could ultimately benefit Russia.  

In addition to bilateral military-to-military interaction, Minsk and Tehran may be pursuing defense industrial cooperation. This could include collaboration on drones, the Institute for the Study of War noted. In May, Ukraine’s National Resistance Center, established by Ukrainian Special Operations Forces to support resistance behind Russian lines, claimed that a delegation of Iranian engineers visited Belarus to discuss producing Shahed suicide drones at a plant in the city of Gomel. In addition, Ukrainian military intelligence claimed last November that Minsk was looking for Tehran’s help in producing artillery shells and rockets. 

Expert Analysis 

“Both Belarus and Iran have already provided significant support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. For Minsk, that has included allowing Moscow to take large quantities of ammunition and other materiel from its storage facilities. If Belarus does end up establishing production of one-way attack drones or other munitions with Iran’s help, I’d expect Russia to benefit. Regardless, it is noteworthy that Russia’s friends in Minsk and Tehran seem to be growing closer.” John Hardie, FDD Russia Program Deputy Director 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has long represented a significant and growing threat to Europe. These latest developments related to Belarus only make the Iranian threat to Europe more manifest, serious, and proximate. Russia and Iran are closer than they have been in years. It is past time for the United States and its European allies to establish a tougher and more unified policy toward the Islamic Republic while expediting the implementation of measures agreed to at the Vilnius Summit to strengthen deterrence and defense capabilities on NATO’s eastern flank.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power  

Domestic Supply 

Iran began supplying Russia with its Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 drones in the summer of 2022. Russia has used these drones primarily to strike fixed targets deep behind the front lines, such as critical infrastructure and logistics depots. The White House stated in May that Moscow had received over 400 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Iran, while Ukrainian intelligence put the figure at over 1,000 as of March 2023. 

Iran is also helping Russia build a factory to produce Shahed drones locally. The new factory, located in the town of Yelabuga in the Republic of Tatarstan, is expected to produce at least 6,000 drones in the coming years. In June, the White House said the facility could come online in early 2024. However, recent evidence indicates Russia may already be assembling a limited number of drones domestically. 

More Evidence That Russia’s Making Iranian Drones,” by John Hardie 

Has Russia Begun Producing Iranian-Designed Suicide Drones?” by John Hardie 

Iran, Russia Expedite Building Drone Factory in Russia,” FDD Flash Brief 


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Politics and Economy Russia Ukraine