Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, speak with reporters after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned Iran against helping Russia amid concerns that Tehran would send drones to help Moscow in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“We would advise Iran to not do that,” Austin said in a joint press conference alongside Milley.
“We think that’s a really, really bad idea, and I’ll leave that at that,” he added.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the U.S. believed Iran was preparing to provide hundreds of drones to Russia on an “expedited timeline,” and that Tehran was preparing to train Russian forces to use the drones as early as this month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a visit to Iran Tuesday, during which he met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The Iranian official lauded Putin for sending troops into Ukraine, saying that if Moscow hadn’t done that, then it would instead face attacks from NATO, The Associated Press reported.
Austin and Milley thought it would not be a good idea for Tehran to help Russia given U.S. opposition to Iran providing assistance. However, when asked why, Milley declined to answer.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea that Iran is providing UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] or other weapon systems that are being commented on the media to Russia. And we’ll see where all that goes,” Milley said.
The comments come as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine edges toward its sixth month, and Moscow focuses its efforts on the Donbas region of the country.
Austin addressed reporters after the fourth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, during which defense officials from more than 40 nations discussed helping Ukraine sustain its efforts against Russia long term.
Earlier on Wednesday, Austin announced that the U.S. would send four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems to Ukraine as part of an upcoming weapons package.
Milley said that 200 Ukrainians have been trained on the system, which the U.S. has touted as extremely effective for this phase of the fight.