Black Market Bonanza: US Weapons Will Bring Death and Destruction to Ukraine & Beyond, Journo Says
There is a long record of US weapons falling in the wrong hands in Syria and Afghanistan; there is every reason to think that this story will repeat in Ukraine, says US investigative journalist Daniel Lazare.
"Vast amounts of western armaments are entering the country but are then being lost in the fog of war," says US investigative journalist Daniel Lazare. "Much of the aid will presumably find its way to battlefield forces. But since Kiev is far and away the most corrupt government in Europe, it's a sad bet that some portion will end up in the hands of third parties involved in the illicit international arms trade. Once the fighting stops we can expect much of what's left over to find its way to the black market."
On 12 May, Senator Rand Paul single-handedly blocked the passage of President Joe Biden's $40 billion military aid package for Ukraine. The lawmaker insisted on expanding the powers of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to include the Ukraine funds.
Previously, the SIGAR exposed the fraud, waste and abuse which infested Washington's $145 billion programme to rebuild Afghanistan. On top of this, billions worth of weapons were left in the Central Asian country amid a hasty withdrawal of US forces.
Earlier, on 19 April, CNN quoted
US officials and Pentagon sources as saying that "The US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine." According to them, there is a real threat of US arms ending up in the wrong hands
Weapons Vanishing in a Big Black Hole in Ukraine
to the US-funded 2021 Global Organized Crime Index, Ukraine is believed to have one of the largest arms trafficking markets in Europe.
The illicit market's role has only intensified since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine with the cities of Dneprotpetrovsk, Khrakov, Odessa and Kiev housing significant logistical centres for criminal networks, according to the website.
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.
In 2019, two Ukrainian soldiers attempted to sell 40 RGD-5 grenades, 15 RPG-22 rockets, and 2,454 firearm cartridges, according
to Responsible Statecraft, while in 2020, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) discovered 18 RGD-5 grenades, twelve F-1 grenades, and two anti-tank mines in Odessa which were stolen from a military base.
"There is substantial evidence that those responsible for weapons’ transfers in the US are failing at end‐use monitoring of the weapons sent to Ukraine," the Cato Institute acknowledged on 1 March 2022, stressing that the US started to provide military equipment and training to Kiev as early as in 2000.
According to the Washington-based think tank, the Pentagon has been able to monitor just three types of weapons: Javelin missiles, Javelin launch units, and night vision devices. At the same time, patrol aircraft, mobile radar systems, communication devices, counter‐IED equipment, military vehicles, weapons storage facilities, and other equipment have gone unmonitored, according to Cato.
Jihadists and US Weapons Bonanza in Syria
"The problem with proxy wars is that controls are inevitably inadequate and incomplete," says Lazare. "Hence, weapons that are supplied to a client state or army often go missing and wind up being resold or re-used in unintended ways. Beginning in 2013, for instance, the CIA transferred an estimated $1 billion in arms, ammunition, and military training to Syrian rebel groups that, as we know, were dominated by Al Qaeda* and ISIS*(Daesh*)."
The flow of the US military assistance to jihadists caused death and destruction inside Syria, according to the journalist. Furthermore, it "fuelled arms trafficking with illicit networks operating in the region capitalizing on the chaos and availability of weapons to advance profits," Lazare highlights, citing a 2019 study published by the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.
"The continuation of the war in Syria has also fuelled arms trafficking, with illicit networks operating in the region capitalizing on the chaos and availability of weapons to advance profits," the study reads.
According to the publication, Islamic State* fighters "acquired advanced weaponry from Syrian opposition groups and Iraqi Security Forces, adding to the threats posed to national, regional, and multilateral forces combatting the terrorist organization." What's worse, the diversion of arms to illicit markets makes weapons nearly impossible to trace, the study acknowledges.
In 2015, Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armoured vehicles
supplied by the US, after the collapse of Mosul. The US-made armoured vehicles were grabbed by Daesh fighters who re-purposed them into car bombs with improvised explosive devices.
Likewise, in October 2017 the Syrian Defence Ministry released footage of ammunition confiscated from numerous terrorist organisations, including the Daesh and al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front, stating that those weapons had been manufactured in the United States or by its close allies.
There is every reason to think that the story in the Ukraine will be the same, with criminal and illicit groups outside of Eastern European eventually gaining access to the modern US-made weapons, according to Lazare.
"The United States always says that this time it will be different, but the outcome is always the same, i.e. death and destruction inside the targeted country and violence and disruption throughout the broader region," the investigative journalist concludes.
*Daesh/ISIS/Islamic State, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other countries.