Steady supplies of Iranian kamikaze drones, artillery shells and bullets have arrived in Russia since the invasion began, with Tehran quickly becoming one of the Kremlin’s closest military allies as both countries attempt to weather the impact of sanctions.
“Our relations are developing very well. Please convey my best wishes to leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei,” Putin told Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, in Tehran on Thursday.
Thanks to the Iranian head of state, Putin said, “we have gained good momentum over the past year”.
Russian forces are now on the attack again after holding back Ukraine’s much-heralded counter-offensive, leaving the war effectively in a stalemate as winter sets in.
Putin received a warm welcome in the UAE, but appeared embarrassed during a press conference with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who interrupted him after he said that the Gulf nation had won its independence.
“Saudi Arabia never won its independence from anyone. It was reunified. Saudi Arabia was never colonised,” the Crown Prince said.
It came as Ukraine announced that it had signed agreements with two American companies to jointly produce vital 155mm artillery shells.
“We have agreements with two leading American companies to jointly produce, in Ukraine, 155-calibre ammunition,” Alexander Kamyshin, the Ukrainian minister for strategic industries, said on Thursday, adding that the implementation of the deals would take years.
“To produce 155-calibre, the process takes a minimum of two years, a maximum of three. And to start this production, we need technologies that our partners own. Ukraine has never produced this calibre,” he said.
Demand for 155mm rounds has skyrocketed following Russia’s full-scale invasion, with the United States and allies sending Kyiv more than two million shells and aiming to increase production to refill rapidly depleting stocks.
Kyiv is also ramping up efforts to produce its own weapons, amid concerns that supplies from the West might be faltering.
The European Union has already said that it will miss its target of producing a million rounds a year by March – and the consequences could be severe.
On Thursday, a top defence analyst at the Royal United Services Institute argued that Europe only has a few years left to boost its production and shore up its defences, to deter Russia from exploiting a possible clash between the United States and China to seize more territory on the continent.
Prof Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the think tank, wrote that in the event of a conflict between the United States and China, Europe “will be left vulnerable to concurrent military aggression by Russia”.
“With the notable exception of Poland, many national commitments to significant additional defence spending have either not yet materialised or are not slated to take effect for several years,” he wrote.
He singled out Germany for failing to deliver on its pledges to rebuild the Bundeswehr and spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.