As Russians struggle to maintain a steady source of ammunition and artillery, they look to their Asian neighbor North Korea for arms.

A US intelligence official disclosed an ongoing deal for Russians to purchase rockets and artillery shells worth millions. The official added that they could even source most of their equipment from North Korea as Russia plans for a long war.

One of the reasons Russia has limited sourcing is because of the global sanctions placed on them since the war started. To date, Russia holds the most world sanctions in history, overlapping North Korea. Still, Russia is looking for new allies as it turns to Iran and North Korea when it comes to artillery shipments.

Russia’s purchase from North Korea also came after they received the initial shipments of Iranian-made drones, amounting to hundreds of new aerial war machines on Russia’s inventory. According to US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, these new drones will be used so Russia can deploy air-to-surface attacks and disrupt Ukrainian electronics. The drones will also be used to identify and locate targets.

Russia, as much as they’d like to unilaterally rely on Iran for weapons, they did not have a seamless transaction at the beginning. Moreover, security officials in the US monitoring the trade said that the early tests of Iranian-supplied weaponry resulted in numerous failures.

“There are a few bugs in the system,” said an allied security official. “The Russians are not satisfied.”

Mohajer 6
Mohajer-6 UAV with serial number P071A-020 and Qaem missile seen during the Eqtedar 40 defense exhibition in Tehran. (Source: Mohsen Ranginkaman/Wikimedia)

The Iranians initially delivered the Mohajer-6 and the Shahed-series drones, which are believed to just be the first of many installments to the Russian army. These drones would ideally fill the gap in the Russian military, which has fewer attack drones than the Ukrainians. However, this gives them a massive disadvantage on terrain attack/defense positions since the Ukrainians have better surveillance drones (supplied by the US).

“These Iranian drones have not operated in a sophisticated air-defense environment before,” he said. “The closest they’ve come to that is [Houthi strikes against] Saudi Arabia or against US bases in Iraq, and they have generally not done well. So I wouldn’t be surprised that, in a more intense environment like Ukraine, that they would have some problems,” said Michael Knights, a military and security expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.