Defense Officials Brief Congress on Weapon Use in Ukraine

Defense Officials Brief Congress on Weapon Use in Ukraine

( – Over the past year, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in the ensuing war has been the focus of worldwide news agencies. During that time, many Western nations have sent billions of dollars of aid, including humanitarian relief, advanced weapons, and ammunition to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces to defend their homeland. War zones have long been a place where unscrupulous actors can intercept and divert everything from peanut butter to Patriot missile batteries to sell on the black market. Now, there is a movement in Congress to help ensure items coming from the United States get to where they belong.

Illegal Weapons Trade

Assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Celeste Wallander, was testifying before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on February 28 when she broached the topic in her prepared comments. She said the United States government “has not seen any credible evidence of diversion of U.S.-provided weapons,” while acknowledging there was a risk and they were aware of it.

With that risk in mind, Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Kyrsten Cinema (I-AZ) cosponsored a bill that aims to reduce the danger as much as possible. The legislation proposes to establish a Special Inspector General (IG) who “would oversee the humanitarian, economic and security assistance” being provided to Ukraine.

The bill sets aside $20 million of the $113 billion (less than 0.02%) that has been allocated to the effort already to initiate and oversee a system of accountability. It also contains a sunset clause that would terminate the position if American spending drops below $250 million per year. The United States is not the only governmental body concerned about weapons of war falling into the wrong hands — the European Union (EU) is also taking action to mitigate that as much as possible.

Ukraine has been a known hotbed for illicit arms dealers since the end of the Cold War, a point Interpol Secretary General J├╝rgen Stock reminded the world of at a June 2022 conference. His comments did not ask if it would happen, but instead, he spoke of it as a near certainty and posited the criminal element was already salivating over the prospect.

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, announced in July 2022 the group would be establishing a Support Hub in Moldova with the intention of addressing “the challenges posed by organized crime, including the trafficking of firearms or trafficking in human beings.”

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