Pentagon pressured to keep track of US weapons in Ukraine
The Pentagon is being pressured by US lawmakers to conduct more robust oversight over American weapons scheduled to be sent to Ukraine under the latest $40 billion aid package, Politico reported on Thursday. The Department of Defense responded that the best way to prevent the weapons from getting into the wrong hands was for Russia to pull out of Ukraine.
“Risk of diversion is one of many considerations that we routinely assess when evaluating any potential arms transfer,” Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth told the news outlet, when asked about oversight issues. “In this case, risk would be considerably minimized by the full withdrawal from Ukraine by Russian forces.”
The US military was “confident in the Ukrainian government’s ability to appropriately safeguard and account for transferred US-origin defense equipment,” Semelroth added.
The official was commenting amid increasing skepticism among US lawmakers over its ability to provide the necessary accountability for how it spends the billions of dollars that the US Congress approved for Ukraine aid last month.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a member of the Armed Services Committee, warned the Pentagon that accountability would be “critically important for both past and future funding requests.” She said the DoD owed lawmakers “several years” worth of reports on European security programs and that she was “getting sick of the run-around here,” according to Politico.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Senator Rand Paul, who stalled the approval of the $40 billion military aid package to insert a provision into it for oversight by an inspector general. An avowed fiscal hawk, he was among the 11 senators, all of them Republicans, who broke the party ranks and voted against the bill in the end.
Russia has warned that the pouring of arms into Ukraine by Western powers poses a threat of them being used for all sorts of nefarious purposes, including outside of the country. Interpol expressed the same concern this Wednesday, stating that criminal organizations were interested in Ukraine as a source of illicit weapons.
The US has a record of losing track of weapons it smuggles to conflict zones in support of its political goals. One recent example is Syria, where Washington trained and armed anti-government groups hoping they would topple President Bashar Assad. Some of the arms, including anti-tank missiles, ended up in the hands of jihadist groups or got funneled to the black market.
Representative Ruben Gallego, a member of the Armed Services Committee, acknowledged past problems with American weapons when he talked to Politico. But “Ukraine is a different story,” he said, indicating he trusted the Ukrainian government to safeguard American weapons systems.