Russian servicemen are pictured by military equipment captured by Russian troops during Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, near the village of Huta-Mezhyhirska, in Ukraine. Ten Javelin American-made portable anti-tank missile systems, grenade launchers, man-portable air-defense systems were discovered at a base that was taken under control of the Russian Armed ForcesInternationalIndiaAfricaMoscow has spent the better part of the past year warning about the security consequences of the appearance of Western weapons sent to Kiev on international arms black markets. US and European officials have largely sought to downplay the scale of the problem and sweep it under the rug.Russia is making the most of its presidency of the United Nations Security Council. On Monday morning in New York, Russian diplomats plan to hold a special briefing dedicated to to the “risks stemming from violations of the agreements regulating the export of weapons and military equipment,” and the threats posed to international peace and security.The briefing, overseen by high representative for disarmament affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, is expected to include a discussion of the tens of billions in sophisticated Western weapons sent to Ukraine, and the risks such transfers pose amid their propensity to be smuggled and re-exported to other global hotspots, and sale to criminal groups or terrorists.Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said the meeting would be an important opportunity for nations to “consider the negative consequences of non-compliance with agreements on [the] export of weapons and military equipment,” and said the meeting could “identify ways to improve mechanisms for controlling such exports.” Russia has no plans to monopolize the focus of discussions “on a specific country or regional context,” Nebenzya added.Western media and Ukrainian officials predictably attacked the Russia-backed agenda, calling Moscow’s Security Council presidency “absurdity to a new level” and the “worst joke ever for April Fool’s Day.”But the question at issue is an important one, and not limited to concerns expressed by Russian officials, since the implications of Ukrainian weapons smuggling activities are literally global in scale. For example, police and officials in Nordic countries have been warning since last year that small arms being sent to Ukraine were somehow ending up in the hands of local gangs. In November, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari warned that weapons sent to Ukraine were “beginning to filter” through to Boko Haram terrorists in Africa.Interpol chief Juergen Stock has warned that the “high availability” of arms being sent to Ukraine would inevitably “result in the proliferation in illicit arms in the post-conflict phase.” Last summer, a major US media outlet released and then scrubbed an investigative feature after it was discovered that as little as “30 percent” of the tens of billions of dollars in Western arms aid to Ukraine was actually reaching the front.AfricaWeapons Sent to Ukraine ‘Beginning to Filter’ to Africa, Nigerian President Says3 December 2022, 04:05 GMTUS officials have attempted to downplay these concerns. Last month, officials assured House Foreign Affairs Committee lawmakers that they had “no evidence” of weapons assistance being misused by Kiev. Those comments echoed assurances made by the Pentagon in late February, when a spokesperson said that the US military was “not seeing any evidence of systemic diversion of the equipment the United States has provided.”US officials and the Pentagon have made these assurances despite admissions by the White House and the military as far back as last April that they didn’t actually know where Western military “aid” to Ukraine was going once it made its way into the country.
‘Real Bad Situation’
“I think we’ve got a real bad situation here,” says Earl Rasmussen, va retired Lieutenant Colonel with over 20 years in the US Army and International Consultant, referring to the growing international concerns about Ukrainian arms smuggling.”We’ve got African presidents saying that the arms have been infiltrated into rebel [groups] confronting them. I’ve actually seen pictures [of weapons] that say ‘not for sale’ in Turkish markets. So it’s a very bad problem. I think they’re covering up,” Rasmussen told Sputnik.Whether Western officials are directly involved in such smuggling or merely covering up for their Ukrainian colleagues is hard to say, the observer believes.
"Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe and one of the most corrupt in the world. So are there military people reselling arms? Yes, absolutely. That’s how they get power. So you've got corruption there. Now, are the Western elites – is someone involved in that? I don't know. It’s tough to say on that. Without further evidence I can’t accuse them, I think they realize that the sales are going on. Maybe they're trying to address it somehow. On the other side, there are concerns in our Congress, and yet we've been basically blocked from doing any type of thorough investigation, from appointing an inspector general to oversee the process. There's members that are advocating the work, but it does not have the support of the full Congress," Rasmussen said.
Following the 2022 midterms, a small group of MAGA Republicans has indeed been seeking further scrutiny of US aid to Ukraine, but their efforts have been sabotaged not just by the White House and the Democrats, but by hawkish members of their own party. In January, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul expressed enthusiastic support for more arms aid to Kiev, and accused colleagues of failing to understand the significance of more no-questions-asked arms aid to Ukraine.WorldNo Evidence of Weapon Misuse in Ukraine, US Officials Claim During Hearing on Aid30 March, 03:24 GMTWhatever the case may be, there’s “no way” that the Zelensky government and European and US leaders aren’t aware of what’s going on, Rasmussen opines. The observer believes the smuggling likely takes place inside Ukraine, with the weapons making their way into the country, and then getting rerouted via a hole in the supply chain.”They’re probably going through a criminal organization. They’ve got contacts, maybe going through an oligarch of some type, maybe through Georgia or Turkiye and then down into Africa. We’ve got ultranationalist neo-Nazis that are very heavily involved in the Ukrainian military. I’m sure they have contacts and connections there. So it could be going through those types of organizations as well,” the observer said.However it happens, in the end these arms wind up on the black market, including the dark web, and then in the hands of criminal groups, terrorists, and rebels. The danger of these deliveries can’t be overemphasized, Rasmussen believes, since they serve to “embolden” global terrorist groups, result in an escalation of “violence and terrorist activity around the world,” and threaten to ease proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – like depleted uranium that could be used in a dirty bomb.The US and its allies would obviously like to keep the weapons smuggling problem under wraps, and to limit congressional investigations as much as possible, due to the “politically sensitive” implications, according to the observer.
"It's an embarrassment – at least for the Biden administration it would be embarrassing if it got leaked to the public that all these endless bottomless [deliveries] of weapons and funding that we are providing were getting in the hands of criminal organizations. That doesn’t look good, especially with an election season coming up. The Europeans want to cover that up as well," Rasmussen emphasized.
WorldClassified Docs Leak Hints at Growing Frustration in US With Biden’s Policy on Ukraine8 April, 19:10 GMT
Could the Weapons Even Be Tracked?
Rasmussen, who is a veteran expert on defense systems management and military supply chains, says tracking arms shipments bound for Ukraine would be quite easy to ensure, if the political will existed to do so.
"We're not even trying to put [in] any type of tracking. When we first sold some F-16s or F-22s to Poland, I know for a fact that they were tracking everything, with all the thousands and thousands of parts, a very complex supply chain. They were tracking it on an Excel spreadsheet. We actually went in and helped put in a more robust automated system for tracking. Taking into account the amount of money that we're sending in weapons, we could definitely carve something out to have a system for tracking. Why we are closing our eyes to it rather than trying to get a handle on tracking – it is anyone's guess. It would seem like somebody doesn't want to track that. We're kind of washing our hands once it gets over to Ukraine; that's irresponsible of Western countries. If they don't have a good tracking method, then we should have a tracking method developed in order to keep track of all of these things. These are high-cost items, [and it’s] a dangerous situation that could easily escalate if these things get into the wrong hands," Rasmussen urged.
Konstantin Sivkov, deputy president of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences, a Moscow-based military think tank, has no doubt in his mind that the US and European establishment is involved in the weapons smuggling process, telling Sputnik that otherwise, investigations would have started a long time ago.
"The weapons are written off as losses, but in fact remain serviceable. Then these written off weapons are transferred to the gray arms market, put up for sale online, transferred to resellers, and everything is sent to the designated address. For example, Ukraine used gray schemes to send Libya not only grenade launchers, but entire tanks," Sivkov said, referring to investigations into Ukrainian arms smuggling schemes going back even before the present conflict.
The West may not recognize the “severe consequences” of this situation, Sivkov noted, pointing out that “when weapons appear in the hands of criminal individuals and criminal structures, they can cause serious damage to the security of any state.”Whatever Western countries do next, for Moscow, the observer said, “the main thing” to ensure now is that smuggled weapons don’t end up in the hands of Russian criminal elements or terrorists. “And to ensure this, measures exist defined by Russian law involving the border services, customs, the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” Sivkov said.