Iran's supreme leader offered a strong endorsement of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"In the case of Ukraine, if you had not taken the helm, the other side would have done so and initiated a war," Khamenei said.
Russia has been looking for more outside support as the West vies to isolate it over the war.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, gave a geopolitical thumbs up to Russia's war in Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran on Tuesday.
"War is a violent and difficult endeavor, and the Islamic Republic is not at all happy that people are caught up in war," Khamenei said, according to his office. "But in the case of Ukraine, if you had not taken the helm, the other side would have done so and initiated a war."
The Iranian supreme leader's statement seemed to suggest that Kyiv and its Western allies would've launched a war against Russia had it not invaded Ukraine. In reality, the West scrambled to find a diplomatic resolution to hostilities in late 2021 and early 2022 as Russia amassed tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border. In short, the so-called "special operation" that Putin ordered in Ukraine was unprovoked. It's also the second time Russia has invaded Ukraine in the past decade.
Khamenei's endorsement of the Ukraine war comes as Putin looks for allies on the global stage with Moscow increasingly isolated both economically and politically as a result of the war. Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia over the invasion, which was also condemned in the UN. And according to the White House, Russia has been looking to acquire drones from Iran to aid its war effort.
The Iranian supreme leader's full-throated approval of the war stands in contrast to China's more ambiguous approach. Though Beijing is also an adversary of the West, it has not explicitly supported Russia's invasion. That said, China has accused NATO of instigating the conflict and criticized Western sanctions. Chinese state media has also echoed the Kremlin's propaganda on the war.
Iran's support for the war also comes as it continues to face harsh US sanctions that it's been pushing Washington to lift while the Biden administration seeks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.
Putin's effort to enlist Iran's support underscores how the Ukraine conflict is not just a fight between neighboring countries but a war that's impacting the world.
"There are going be ramifications from this war for a very long time. It's an epoch-making war in many respects. It's shaping a whole set of interactions," top Russia expert Fiona Hill told Insider last week. "The war in Ukraine has a global reach, global implications — with the food security, Russia's nuclear sabre-rattling, Putin running around to Turkey and Iran and reaching out to China for support. This is a conflict already with global dimensions."
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