The defense ministers of Iran and Belarus signed agreements to increase their military cooperation, which may include the production of drones, experts warned.

The agreements were announced after the visit of Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin to Tehran on July 31 and could potentially be a step toward the production of Iranian-designed drones in Belarus, ultimately benefiting Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Ukrainian sources claim that Iranian engineers already visited Belarus in May to discuss the production of Shahed suicide drones, which have been frequently used by Russia in the Ukraine war, according to a report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

The report added that Minsk was also looking for Iranian assistance in the production of artillery shells and rockets.

John Hardie, deputy director of the FDD’s Russia Program, said 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,” Hardie added.

The Shahed drone is produced by Iran and has been used by Russia since the summer of 2022, mainly against fixed targets deep behind the frontlines.

According to the White House, Russia has received over 400 drones, while Ukrainian sources estimate the number to already be above 1,000.

Iran also helped Russia build a local drone production factory, which the White House estimates may become operational in early 2024 and produce at least 6,000 drones over the coming years.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has long represented a significant and growing threat to Europe,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. “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.”

Russian-Iranian cooperation has deepened since the start of the war in Ukraine, not only in the military sector but also regarding the economy and trade.

In June, Russian news agency TASS reported that a free trade zone agreement between Iran, Russia and several more countries may be signed by the year’s end.

Talks between the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran are in their final stages, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk told TASS. The EEU consists of five member states: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

Share this article