Russia’s hunt for weapons and ammo in Iran and North Korea is a sign of ‘desperation’ and that ‘things are not going well’ in Ukraine, US officials say

  • Russia has been looking to Iran and North Korea for weapons and ammunition in recent weeks.
  • US officials say the conversations are a sign that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “not going well.”
  • It’s also an “indication of how desperate Putin’s becoming,” NSC spokesperson Kirby said. 

Russia’s search for weapons and ammunition from countries like Iran and North Korea is a sign of President Vladimir Putin’s “desperation” and the struggle his troops are facing in Ukraine, US officials said. 

Citing intelligence, the Biden administration said back in July that Iran was preparing to send drones to Russian forces and a month later, the first batch of drones arrived in Russian hands — only to experience technical difficulties.

And as recent as this week, reports indicated that Russia has been looking into securing ammunition from North Korea because Western sanctions are causing a supply shortage for Putin’s war efforts in Ukraine. 

British intelligence similarly noted on Tuesday that international sanctions are impacting Russia’s stock of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and hamstringing its operations on the battlefield.

“It does demonstrate and is indicative of the situation that Russia finds itself in, in terms of its logistics and sustainment capabilities as it relates to Ukraine,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the possibility of Russia acquiring arms from North Korea. 

“We assess that things are not going well on that front for Russia,” he continued. “So the fact that they’re reaching out to North Korea is a sign that they’re having some challenges on the sustainment front.”

Ryder said the information available to the Pentagon indicates that Russia has only “approached” North Korea for discussions and declined to say if money has changed hands in exchange for ammunition.

National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that even discussions between Russian and North Korea are “just another indication of how desperate Putin’s becoming.”

“He was buying drones from Iran, now he’s going to buy artillery rounds from from North Korea,” Kirby said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s an indication of how much his defense industrial establishment is suffering as a result of this war and the degree of desperation that he’s reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea for assistance.”

The remarks from US officials come as Ukrainian forces continue to push a major counter-offensive in southern Ukraine to retake the strategic city of Kherson, the first city to fall to the Russians.