Russia was one of Iraq’s strongest supporters dating back to the 1950s after the monarchy was overthrown. The Baathists and Saddam Hussein made the Soviets one of their closest allies early on. They would later diversify their relations reaching out to Western Europe, but Moscow always remained a close friend. When it came to the U.S. invasion in 2003, Saddam believed that President Vladimir Putin would stop it. That didn’t happen, but the Russians did provide intelligence on the American plans to Baghdad.
Right before the start of the war, the Russian Ambassador to Iraq gave the regime details of the Bush administration’s plans. A captured Iraqi document dated March 5, 2003 said that the Russian ambassador provided information on the U.S. troop deployments, equipment, and their locations to Saddam’s government. Another captured file from March 25 stated that the ambassador relayed the U.S. invasion plans. He said that the Coalition would attack through Basra and then head up the Euphrates River to Baghdad. Another thrust would also come from the north via Turkey. The Russian claimed his country had a source at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Doha, Qatar, perhaps hinting at a spy. Some Iraqi military officers who received this information caused a diplomatic faux pas when they went to the Russian embassy asking for more details of the U.S. plans and disclosed that the ambassador had already given them some. The intelligence had no discernable impact upon the war as Saddam made his own plans, but it highlighted the close relationship between Russia and Iraq.
Saddam actually believed that Moscow would stop the U.S. invasion. He thought the Russians would block the war via the United Nations. Saddam had plenty of evidence that would happen. In the autumn of 2002 Russia said that diplomacy should be used to deal with Iraq not war. On October 4, 2002 Russia’s ambassador to Iraq sent a letter to Baghdad saying that his country was going to oppose the war. At the start of 2003 President Vladimiar Putin called President Bush to personally relay the same message. Then in March, the Russian ambassador told the Iraqis that Moscow, along with France and Germany had offered a resolution to the United Nations to counter the U.S. and British one that would authorize war. In the end, Russia’s efforts failed, but it showed that it wanted to maintain its ties to Saddam to the very end. Relations between the two governments started as soon as the Baath took power. A friendship treaty was signed in 1972 with President Ahmed al-Bakr, which had been negotiated by Saddam. Moscow would then become Iraq’s largest arms supplier, which proved crucial during the Iran-Iraq War. Even after Baghdad diversified its ties reaching out to countries like France, Russia remained an important friend.
ABC News, “Did Russian Ambassador Give Saddam the U.S. War Plan?” 3/23/16
BBC, “Iraqi documents: Saddam’s delusions,” 3/25/06
The Bulletin, “Iraq inks friendship pact With Soviet Union,” 4/10/72
McGeary, Johanna “6 Reasons why So Many Allies Want Bush To Slow Down,” Time, 2/3/03
Ratnesar, Romesh, “Inspections: Can They Work This Time?” Time, 9/22/02
Woods, Kevin with Pease, Michael, Stout, Mark, Murray, Williamson, and Lacey, James, “A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Saddam’s Senior Leadership,” Iraqi Perspectives Project, 3/24/06