Quick Buck for Your Arms: Why West and Kiev Uninterested in Weapons Oversight

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Украинские военные с гаубицей M777. Архивное фотоInternationalIndiaAfricaThere is no reliable oversight body that would give a clear answer as to what actually happens to Western weapons after they enter Ukraine, Earl Rasmussen, a retired lieutenant colonel with over 20 years in the US Army and international consultant, told Sputnik, adding that apparently, neither Kiev nor Washington is interested in transparency.US and UK defense officials have repeatedly asserted to the Western public that they have put in place reliable mechanisms to track NATO weapons delivered to Ukraine. However, the aforementioned measures are not as reliable as they claim.UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces James Heappey recently testified that the British government is keeping an eye on arms transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, admitting, however, that some of weapons intended for the Ukrainian military are being resold. Still, according to Heappey, these instances are “very rare.”Likewise, in late February, Republican lawmakers grilled the Pentagon’s lead watchdog, Inspector General Robert Storch, who acknowledged challenges in oversight despite the Department of Defense claiming there was no “evidence of diversion” of expensive US weapons in Ukraine. “You cannot testify that everything is complying with the law in end-use monitoring,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Storch. “If you could testify to that, you would.”“I think there’s a big issue with arms smuggling and I understand why the UK ministry is going to state that and I understand why our government probably states that as well,” said Earl Rasmussen. “Because it would not look good publicly with the endless amount of weapons being sent, the type of weapons being sent, the money that is being directed to Ukraine versus internal issues that need to be addressed in almost every other Western country, to not have control on it. It’d be very concerning. So, I understand why they’re saying that they do not have it. However, we know that Ukraine is historically, and especially most recently over the last eight or nine years, very corrupt. We know we had an independent kind of research by one of the Western media companies that had a documentary about only something like 30% of weapons getting through. Of course, because of complaints from the Ukrainian government, that was pulled.”MilitarySy Hersh: West Knows Ukraine Weapons End Up on Black Market23 April, 10:08 GMT

Ukraine: One of Largest Arms Smuggling Markets

Ukraine is believed to have one of the largest arms trafficking markets in Europe, according to the US-funded 2021 Global Organized Crime Index. For instance, of the more than 300,000 small arms that disappeared from Ukraine between 2013 and 2015, only around 13% were ever recovered, according to a 2017 briefing by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based independent research project.Last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh argued that the West knows that the weapons they deliver to Ukraine are being sold on the black market. Hersh told the Russian media that “very early, Poland, Romania, [and] other countries on the border were being flooded with weapons we’d been shipping for the war to Ukraine,” where the Russian special military operation is underway.

"In other words, commanders of various […] levels – often they were generals or colonels and others – were given with shipments of some weapons [and] personally [they] re-sold or retailed them back to the black or dark market," Hersh said.

Several months ago, CBS News tried to tell the story of weapons smuggling in Ukraine, but almost immediately the media company was forced to retract it. Prior to that, CNN quoted US administration and Pentagon officials complaining that US arms were vanishing in the “fog” of the Ukraine conflict, acknowledging that it was almost impossible to track all weapons systems delivered to the Eastern European state.

"I've actually seen pictures of shoulder-mounted weapons, air defense-type systems, and ammunition and stuff – pictures that are supposedly in Turkish markets," Rasmussen underscored. "And I also have heard about sales of weapons to criminal organizations and to terrorist activities. I feel that the statement is not accurate. I think there is a huge lack of accountability, and in fact, the Republicans in our Congress have echoed a similar concern. So I feel fairly comfortable and am very concerned about it. I do think there's weapons smuggling going on, and not all the weapons by far are making it to the needed locations."

MilitaryWhich Countries are Sending Weapons to Ukraine?26 April, 13:48 GMT

US Congress Members Vote Down Sen. Paul’s Oversight Initiative

In May 2022, US lawmakers did not support Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s initiative to expand the powers of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to include the Ukraine funds. As per Rasmussen, this was a big mistake on their part.”Every organization has oversight to some degree,” the military veteran explained. “Is it sufficient in this case? No. Right now, we’ve got multiple aids going through several different departments to Ukraine. Is there an inspector general for each one of those departments and agencies? Yes. Recently, this spring, it was announced that we have 90 individuals that are working on providing oversight of Ukrainian assistance that’s being provided. But one: is that enough; two: there is no central independent oversight activity, unlike Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, unlike previous wars. And yet we’re putting in so much more money and so much more aid. There is no independent one that can reach out to every department to look at the overall picture, to coordinate with foreign governments. None.”According to Rasmussen, “we don’t actually know who’s receiving [these weapons] and where it’s getting to.” At the same time, even if it goes to different Ukrainian units, the expert does not rule out that there are “certain entities within the military or within the government, or oligarchs that are seeing this as an opportunity to redirect weapons, redirect things to different parties.””It could be going to the ultranationalist neo-Nazi parties, which I’m sure have different connections to other dark-type entities,” he said. “And I’m sure that a lot of these same connections exist to criminal organizations as well, and perhaps connections to terrorist activities also, both within Europe as well as in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Obviously somebody influential, someone is probably getting a cut from these, I’m sure they’re not just disappearing going across. They’re being sold and distributed for somebody’s monetary gain of some type.”WorldHungary’s Orban: Ukraine Crisis is ‘Klondike’ for Arms Makers & Profiteers5 May, 13:21 GMT

There are People Profiteering From Lack of Oversight

Needless to say, there are people interested in maintaining this chaotic state of affairs, Rasmussen underscored. For example, there are obviously people within the Ukrainian government who are profiteering from the smuggling of NATO weapons, according to the military veteran.”I heard something like a list of 35 names who were taking a little bit too much as far as percentage off of the aid being given. So, I’m just guessing, [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky was one of them as well,” the expert said.On April 14, Hersh alleged that Zelensky and his cabal embezzled around $400 million last year, citing CIA analysts. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also quoted one expert as saying that the level of corruption in Kiev is approaching that of the Afghan war, “although there will be no professional audit reports emerging from the Ukraine.””Obviously, there’re commanders on the field that are probably not supportive of the status quo and would like to have the weapons that they need and would like to have better control on this,” Rasmussen continued. “I think there are entities within, let’s face it, within the US government, or perhaps within the shippers that are bringing this stuff over that would like the status quo as well. And I think the weapons manufacturers would like it, because if the weapons don’t get there – and even if they do get there, we’re having problems meeting the requirements. But let’s say they don’t. Then they definitely don’t have abilities. So that means more weapons, more ammunition needed, more weapons need to be developed, and more contracts for the weapons industry.”Russia’s Special Operation in Ukraine’Jihadist’ Killed in Ukraine Got NATO Weapons, SAS Training – Investigation5 May, 13:22 GMT

US Weapons Ending Up in Wrong Hands, Repeatedly

The most frustrating part of this is that there has been a plethora of examples of the US government’s loose oversight of weapons transfers, which have ended up in the wrong hands. To illustrate his point, Rasmussen referred to the CIA’s Operation Timber Sycamore “that basically funneled weapons into the multiple different areas of Syria, essentially from Libya through Eastern Europe, through Turkiye into Syria to assist the moderate rebels, which we know there really are no moderate rebels, they’re all extremists and most have aligned with al-Qaeda* or ISIS*.”There have been plenty of other instances where US weapons have found their way to terrorist groups. For example, in 2015, Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles, supplied by the US, after the collapse of Mosul which were grabbed by Daesh* terrorists who repurposed them into car bombs with improvised explosive devices. In October 2017, the Syrian Defense Ministry released footage of ammunition confiscated from numerous terrorist organizations, including Daesh and the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front*, stating that those weapons had been manufactured in the United States or by its close allies.In 2021, the US left behind at least $7 billion in military equipment in Afghanistan after its botched withdrawal, according to a congressionally mandated report from the Pentagon. All in all, the US gave a total of $18.6 billion in equipment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2005 to August 2021, as per the DoD report.

"I know there are extremist elements that are assisting in the Ukrainian side right now, both Ukrainian extremists as well as extremists from outside Ukraine, there are probably mercenary-type activities there," said Rasmussen. "But there are also extremist pro-ISIS types. It would not surprise me at all, as the British media revealed that there are weapons that are actually being provided to those types of organizations, and maybe they get provided outside of Ukraine and they end up going to Ukraine. It may be just another mechanism, or maybe they're going through Ukraine to those organizations outside. But yes, terrorist activities are definitely profiting or gaining capabilities as a result of the uncontrolled shipment of weapons and aid."

*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State), al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra Front (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) are terrorist organizations banned in Russia and many other countries.

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