November 22, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Iran supplying glide bombs to Russia for use in Ukraine; short-range ballistic missiles may follow

Institute for the Study of War

Russian President Vladimir Putin reframed the Kremlin’s stance on the Israeli-Hamas war to a much more anti-Israel position in an attempt to demonstrate the supposed hypocrisy of Western condemnations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin stated that attendees of the G20 summit who expressed shock at the continued Russian war in Ukraine should instead be “shocked” by the “bloody” 2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine and the subsequent war that the “Kyiv regime waged against its own people” in Donbas and by the “extermination of the civilian population in Palestine, in the Gaza sector.” Putin’s November 22 statement on the Israel-Hamas war referring to the “extermination of the civilian population of Palestine” was a departure from previous Kremlin framing that largely focused on calling for peace and claiming that the Israel-Hamas war will distract from the provision of Western military aid to Ukraine. Putin’s November 22 framing of the Israeli-Hamas war continues to exploit that war to undermine Western support for Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed, and also signals potentially increasing support for Iranian interests in the region and an increased willingness to antagonize Israel.

Putin also reiterated boilerplate rhetoric falsely portraying Russia as willing to engage in meaningful negotiations, likely to pressure the West into prematurely pushing Ukraine to negotiate with Russia. Putin stated that the world must “think about how to stop this tragedy [the Russian-initiated war in Ukraine],” falsely signaling a willingness to engage in meaningful peace negotiations in Ukraine. Putin and other Russian officials have routinely falsely claimed that the Kremlin is ready to negotiate to end the war while signaling that the Kremlin maintains its maximalist objectives, including territorial claims and regime change. Kremlin officials have pushed this narrative while claiming that Ukraine is unwilling to negotiate with Russia, likely to coerce Western officials into prematurely offering concessions favorable to Russia rather than engage in meaningful, good faith negotiations. Ukrainian officials have routinely expressed their willingness to negotiate with Russia as soon as Russia removes its forces from Ukraine’s internationally-recognized territory, including Donbas and Crimea. ISW has observed no indications that Putin does not retain his maximalist objectives and continues to assess that a premature cessation of hostilities in Ukraine greatly increases the likelihood of renewed Russian aggression on terms far more favorable to the Kremlin in the near future.

US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby reported on November 21 that Iran is supplying Russia with glide bombs and that Iran may be preparing to transfer short-range ballistic missiles to Russia. ISW has observed Russian forces increasingly using glide bombs, particularly modified FAB-500, KAB-500, and RPK-500 aerial bombs equipped with glide bomb structures, in the Lyman and Kherson directions. It is unclear whether Kirby meant that Iran is supplying Russia with glide bomb components or with fully constructed glide bombs. The Critical Threats Project (CTP)-ISW’s Iran Update reported on August 14 that Iran produces a variety of glide bombs domestically, such as the Ghaem glide bombs, Yasin long-range glide bombs, Sadid glide bombs, and Balaban glide bombs. Iran commonly uses these bombs with its various drone platforms, likely including the Shahed-131/136 drones that Iran supplies to Russia. A Russian milblogger previously amplified claims that Russian Su-25 aircraft may be compatible with Iranian glide bombs. Iran presented several glide bomb variants at the Russian Army-2023 Forum in Moscow in August 2023 and possibly during Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Tehran in September 2023. Kirby added that Iran also continues to supply Russia with drones and artillery ammunition. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on November 6 that Iran may continue to send small batches of Shahed-131/136 drones to Russia despite increased Russian efforts to produce Shahed drones domestically and Iran’s fulfillment of its first Shahed supply contracts with Russia. CTP-ISW previously assessed that Iran and Russia may conclude a drone and missile sale agreement following the expiration of UN missile restrictions against Iranian missile and missile-related technology exports on October 18, 2023.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin reframed the Kremlin’s stance on the Israeli-Hamas war to a much more anti-Israel position in an attempt to demonstrate the supposed hypocrisy of Western condemnations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Putin also reiterated boilerplate rhetoric falsely portraying Russia as willing to engage in meaningful negotiations, likely to pressure the West into prematurely pushing Ukraine to negotiate with Russia.
  • US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby reported on November 21 that Iran is supplying Russia with glide bombs and that Iran may be preparing to transfer short-range ballistic missiles to Russia.
  • The Kremlin appears to be inexplicably concerned about the outcome of the upcoming March 2024 Russian presidential elections, despite apparent widespread Russian approval of Putin.
  • Russian Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin called for Russia to codify an unspecified state ideology in the Russian constitution, suggesting that some Russian officials may want to explicitly end nominal constitutional protections for civil rights, democratic pluralism, and ethnic equality.
  • Bastrykin has yet to detail what a potential Russian state ideology should be, although the Kremlin’s support for Russian ultranationalism would likely heavily influence any potential Russian state ideology.
  • Bloomberg reported on November 21 that the European Union (EU) proposed a plan to strengthen security commitments from EU member states to Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of November 21 to 22.
  • Russian milbloggers appear to be focusing renewed complaints against the Russian military command for what milbloggers perceive as poor choices that contribute to Russian casualties.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, northwest of Horlivka, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast and advanced east of Synkivka.
  • The Russian Federation Council approved the Russian 2024-2026 federal budget on November 22, and Russian officials continue to emphasize social spending over defense expenditures.
  • The Russian government and occupation authorities continue to forcibly deport children in occupied Ukraine to Russia under medical treatment schemes.
Share the Post: