US struggling to trace arms given to Ukraine – WaPo
Despite having a team of military overseers in the country, the US has only managed to account for around 10% of the weapons systems sent to Ukraine that require special tracking, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Earlier, Interpol had warned that foreign armaments could end up in the hands of criminals in Europe.
Anonymous US officials told the newspaper that they can only hope to achieve a “reasonable” level of compliance with oversight rules, and will have to be satisfied with “greater than zero” assurances from their Ukrainian colleagues.
Some 22,000 US-provided weapons systems – including Stinger and Javelin missiles – need to be tracked once they enter Ukraine, the report stated. However, US inspectors have only managed to perform two in-person checks in recent months, verifying just 10% of this number. Without these verifications, the US is relying on Ukraine to scan arms packages and send a record of their serial numbers to Washington.
For smaller items such as rifles and body armor, a single American official in Poland signs off on all transfers to Ukraine. Larger weapons systems, such as HIMARS rocket artillery platforms and M777 howitzers, are not subject to inspections.
The Post’s report came hours after a Pentagon official told reporters that in-person inspections had recently started again for the first time since Russia’s military operation began in February. Throughout the intervening months, US media reports suggested that Washington had no idea where its weapons shipments were actually ending up.
One intelligence source told CNN in April that these weapons disappear “into a big black hole” once they enter the country, while CBS News in August quoted a Lithuanian arms supplier as saying that “like 30% of [military aid to Ukraine] reaches its final destination.”
The US has provided $18 billion in military aid to Ukraine since February. Russian President Vladimr Putin has warned that this influx of arms prolongs the conflict while making the US a de-facto participant.
Last month, Putin also claimed that “powerful weapons, including portable air defense systems and precision weapons,” are being smuggled out of Ukraine and onto the black market. Up to $1 billion worth of arms are funneled from Ukraine to criminals, terrorists and extremists every month, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, stated in October.
Russia’s concern over the matter is shared by Interpol. In a briefing in June, agency chief Jurgen Stock cautioned that the sheer volume of arms being pumped into Ukraine “will lead to the proliferation of illicit weapons in the post-conflict phase.”