The presidents of Russia and Iran praised their countries’ bilateral relationship during a meeting in Moscow on December 7. “Our relations are developing very well,” said Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi. “Please convey my best wishes to leader Khamenei,” referring to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Thanks to his support, we have gained good momentum over the past year.” Raisi used the forum to criticize Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, calling it “genocide and a crime against humanity.”
Before the meeting, Iranian state media reported that the two presidents would discuss “cooperation in the energy, industry, agriculture, and knowledge-based sectors.” Both states continue to grow their economic and military ties to form an anti-Western axis that includes North Korea and China. On December 5, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed a declaration on ways to mitigate and offset U.S. sanctions on both nations.
“Putin and Raisi’s public remarks suggest economic and energy issues took center stage during today’s meeting, along with the Gaza crisis. Russia’s defense minister did participate in the talks, however, indicating military and military-technical issues were discussed. Russia still has yet to confirm the purported sale of Su-35 fighter jets to Iran. Moscow may calculate that the potential deal is worth more as a source of leverage with other actors in the region.” — John Hardie, FDD Russia Program Deputy Director
“This meeting is just more proof that the war in Ukraine isn’t only about Ukraine. We face the alliance of evil formed by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. They want to challenge the unipolar moment led by the United States, undermine America’s superpower status, provide a multipolar alternative based on authoritarian values, and subvert democracy globally. It’s high time for the West to wake up to this new axis of evil and turn the tables on its nefarious games.” — Ivana Stradner, FDD Research Fellow
Iran and Russia Under International Sanctions
Russia has faced robust international sanctions since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Iran — already under sanctions for its nuclear development and sponsorship of terrorism — faces additional international scrutiny for its support of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, all of whom are attacking Israel.
Iran-Russia Military Cooperation
Since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Tehran has provided thousands of drones to Moscow while seeking advanced military equipment in return. Russia and Iran are also sharing intelligence and harassing American forces in Syria as part of a joint effort to drive the United States out of the region.
On November 28, Iranian state media reported that Iran finalized plans to purchase Su-35 fighter jets and Mi-28 attack helicopters from Russia, but Russia has not confirmed a completed deal.
Putin Tours Middle East
On December 6, Putin visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to bolster their ties with Russia. The visits were Putin’s first trip to the Gulf since the start of the war in Ukraine. Hours before Putin landed in Riyadh to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Russia and Saudi Arabia — the world’s two biggest oil exporters — called for oil-producing countries to join an agreement to cut outputs.