Iran provides Shahed-136 drones to Russia, to launch them into Ukraine. This way, Iran obviously gets into friction with the EU, the US, and other world powers that are standing on Ukraine's side.

Ukraine likely also has money and needs cheap drones. Why would Iran risk conflict with/sactions from the EU and US by supplying Shaheeds for Russia? Why not sell them to Ukraine instead as Turkey does? Even if for some reason Ukraine finds no use for them, buying all the drones and simply trashing them still seems cheaper than shooting them down later.

Is it that this war means something to Iran, and they are seeking more than just money by making and selling weapons to Russia?

  • 5
    Ukraine is curently big friends with the USA, and for Iran, USA is the Devil Incarnate. Perhaps that's why.
    – alamar
    Dec 12, 2022 at 12:50
  • 4
    I doubt Ukraine has the money to actually pay for drones. All their other weapons are gifts.
    – Allure
    Dec 12, 2022 at 12:52
  • 2
    Lithuanians, Poles collected money for Bayraktars for Ukraine. If Iranian drones are cheaper and also good, why not?
    – Stančikas
    Dec 12, 2022 at 12:57
  • I think Ukrainians prefer Warmates and Fly Eyes Dec 12, 2022 at 15:00
  • The EU has issued new sanctions over the drone sales. aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/20/…
    – Joe W
    Dec 13, 2022 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


Since the Iranian government seems to be reluctant to even admit that they are doing it, not to speak of explaining why they are doing it, we can only resort to (hopefully) reasoned speculation.

First, I don't think the "selling drones to Russia incurs the wrath of the EU/US"-argument is particularly strong here. Iran already has a heavy bunch of sanctions slapped on them anyway. In fact, I have no seen any reports of new sanctions being discussed in this context - the screws may already be as tight as they get.

Second, it is not clear to me that buying Iranian drones would be a feasible option for Ukraine. A lot of the money Ukraine uses to buy weapons comes from the US and the EU. I really don't see the US tolerating Ukraine using US subsidies to pay Iran; and the EU wouldn't be happy with that either. Of course Ukraine could try "We're not paying Iran with the money we got from you, but with this other money we got from taxes/crowd funding/etc" as an argument. But it does seem risky to potentially annoy significant supporters in this way.

Third, there may just be some "the enemy of the friend of my enemy is my friend" Cold War-style logic going on. The Iranian government hates the US, so if the US gives weapons to Ukraine, giving weapons to Russia may feel appropriate. Side benefits are getting real-life data on how well or not the drones operate against a wide range of Western air defences. (With accompanying downside: The West learns how well their stuff works against Iranian drones. We may see Gepards being put back into use or so.)

Fourth, there is more than money Russia can offer. A Russian-Iranian alliance all but eliminates the risk of the UN Security Council passing anything against Iran. Depending on just how desperate Russia is, there might even be some nuclear technology on the negotiating table.

  • To add to this - while US and Europe have placed economic sanctions on Iran, Russia has cultivated a friendly relation with Iran over the same period including selling them weapons and investing in Iran.
    – sfxedit
    Dec 12, 2022 at 14:10
  • 2
    The fourth is IMO the most important. It's not about getting money for drones, it's about getting an ally. Russia can also offer some technology ignoring sanctions on Iran. Ukraine will not. Dec 12, 2022 at 14:37
  • As follow up to the first point about already having sanctions in place, is it possible that those existing sanctions are preventing Ukraine from buying drones from Iran? Do we have any reason to believe that they didn't try to sell drones to both sides and just couldn't get it done?
    – Joe W
    Dec 12, 2022 at 22:13
  • @JoeW Trying to sell weapons to both Ukraine and Russia would be political suicide for Iran, as Russia would never accept that and even become openly hostile to Iran. Iran just doesn't have the political space to do such a thing.
    – sfxedit
    Dec 14, 2022 at 14:08
  • @sfxedit And I am suggesting that it isn't even a possibility because the current sanctions on Iran prevent Ukraine from purchasing them in the first place.
    – Joe W
    Dec 14, 2022 at 14:30

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