January 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

Russia Acquires North Korean Missiles, Eyes Iranian Missiles  

January 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

Russia Acquires North Korean Missiles, Eyes Iranian Missiles  

Latest Developments

Russia has received several dozen short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea and may soon get close-range ballistic missiles from Iran, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on January 4. Russia used some of these missiles against Ukraine in a pair of missile barrages over the last week, Kirby added. Missile remains recovered after those strikes indicate Russia received the KN-23 short-range ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, “Russian negotiations to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran are actively advancing,” Kirby warned. Although that deal has not yet been completed, Moscow could receive the missiles as early as this spring, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal. The officials revealed that a Russian delegation visited an Iranian training ground in mid-December to observe Iranian ballistic missiles, including the Ababil, which Tehran displayed for the first time at an August 2023 defense expo in Moscow. That trip followed a September 2023 visit to Iran by Russia’s defense minister, who was shown the close-range Iranian Ababil and short-range Iranian Fateh-110 missiles, among other weapons.

Expert Analysis

“While Russia has significantly increased its production of missiles since the war began, Moscow’s preferred expenditure rate still outstrips production, and Ukraine is shooting down a high percentage of Russian missiles. Missiles from North Korea and potentially Iran, alongside Iranian Shahed one-way attack drones, can supplement Moscow’s stocks and support its ongoing strike campaign. These missiles, especially if supplied in greater numbers, can also exacerbate pressure on Ukraine’s interceptor stocks and stretch Ukraine’s limited number of air defense systems that can reliably intercept ballistic missiles.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“Iran’s improving missile capabilities, to include more precise close- and short-range ballistic missiles, are emboldening the regime to take more risks, be they diplomatic or military. The widening radius of Iranian projectile proliferation is an urgent national security challenge for both the United States and Europe. No longer are Iranian drones and missiles going to be a Middle Eastern problem. A firmer and more united trans-Atlantic response against expanded Iranian drone proliferation coupled with a defense of the lapsing UN missile embargo could have deterred this forthcoming deal.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Rogue Nations Help Russia Bombard Ukraine

In recent days, Russia has launched large-scale missile and drone barrages that apparently targeted defense-industrial facilities and critical infrastructure in Ukraine. Ukrainian and Western officials had previously warned that Moscow was stockpiling missiles to reprise last winter’s strike campaign against Ukraine’s power grid and other critical infrastructure. According to Kyiv, Russia has already attacked Ukraine with thousands of Shahed drones that were shipped from Iran or assembled in Russia under a license deal with Tehran.

Lapsed Missile Embargo

Home to the largest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East, Iran was subject to an eight-year prohibition on ballistic missile testing and transfers per UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The United States and the deal’s European signatories allowed the resolution’s missile injunctions to lapse in October. Despite reports last year that Iran was planning to furnish Russia with ballistic missiles, Tehran has so far refrained from delivering any ballistic missiles to Moscow. After the lapse of the embargo, the Russian Federation issued a statement claiming it was no longer bound by any UN restrictions on Iranian missiles.

Iran Aids Russia’s Imperialist War Against Ukraine,” by John Hardie

Iran and Russia Deepen Ties as Russian Defense Minister Visits Tehran,” FDD Flash Brief

Arsenal: Assessing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran is Now at War with Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Behnam Ben Taleblu


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles North Korea Russia