October 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia Pursues Closer Ties With Iran, China, and North Korea

October 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia Pursues Closer Ties With Iran, China, and North Korea

Latest Developments

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov intends to visit Tehran on October 23 as Iranian-backed threats against the United States and Israel increase in the Middle East. The visit follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to China and Lavrov’s trip to North Korea last week. Iran has supplied Russia with kamikaze drones that Moscow has used in deadly attacks in Ukraine over the last year and a half. Putin previously criticized Israel’s response to the October 7 massacre of Israelis by the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas.

Expert Analysis

“Russia and Israel have sustained a professional relationship for more than a decade, even as Israel flew sorties in Russian-controlled airspace, as a means to attack Iranian targets in Syria. Despite the open channel of communication, Russia is unlikely to constrain Iran. This conflict is too convenient of a distraction. The world has looked away from Ukraine. Putin and Lavrov wouldn’t have it any other way.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“The growing alliance between Russia and Iran represents a threat to stability in the Middle East. Iran supplies Russia with kamikaze drones and now seeks Moscow’s support as restrictions on Iran’s missile program come to an end. Together, Iran and Russia are also cementing ties with China and North Korea, which cements an arc of threats from Europe to Asia.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Russia Warns of Escalation, Emphasizes “Common Threats”

During his visit to North Korea on October 19, Lavrov warned that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate to other parts of the Middle East. “The risk of this crisis reaching the region-wide scale is quite serious,” he said. During Putin’s visit to China on October 18, he compared the growing conflict in the Middle East to the Ukraine war, touting closer ties between Moscow and Beijing. “All these external factors are common threats, and they strengthen Russia-Chinese interaction,” Putin said.

Russia and Iran Eye More Missile and Drone Deals

On October 17, 10 days after the Hamas attack on Israel, Russia praised the end of United Nations Security Council restrictions on Iran’s missile program. The expiration of the embargo may lead Iran to provide missiles to Moscow. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Tehran in September and toured a drone and missile site. Iranian-backed militias have used drones to threaten Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

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China Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics Russia