US worried that weapons sent to Ukraine could end up in ‘wrong hands’

The US State Department outlined a plan to stop the potential trade of US arms sent to Ukraine, noting that criminal actors may attempt to acquire weapons.

 A member of the Ukrainian National Guard prepares a D-30 howitzer for a fire towards Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine October 5, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY)
A member of the Ukrainian National Guard prepares a D-30 howitzer for a fire towards Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine October 5, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY)

The US State Department announced last Thursday that it plans to counter what it called the diversion of US weapons sent to Ukraine, which may end up in the hands of pro-Russian or independent non-state actors.

“Wars can provide opportunities for weapons to fall into private hands via theft or illicit sales, sometimes creating black markets for arms that endure for decades,” explained the State Department. “A variety of criminal and non-state actors may attempt to acquire weapons from sources in Ukraine during or following the conflict, as occurred after the Balkans Wars in the 1990s.”

The United States has committed approximately $17.6 billion worth of arms to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion on February 24.

The State Department added that most of the weapons sent to Ukraine have been actively used on the battlefield by Ukrainian forces, citing “intense internal demand” by the Ukrainian military as a reason black-market proliferation of arms has yet to take place.

 A firefighter works to extinguish fire following recent shelling at an oil storage in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the town of Shakhtarsk (Shakhtyorsk) near Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, October 27, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) A firefighter works to extinguish fire following recent shelling at an oil storage in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the town of Shakhtarsk (Shakhtyorsk) near Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, October 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

The State Department did confirm that some of the arms sent to Ukraine were captured by pro-Russian forces, warning that Russia may use the weapons “to develop countermeasures, propaganda, or (to conduct) false-flag operations.”

How will the US stop the diversion of Ukrainian weapons?

“Early US engagement with partners will focus on concrete steps that can be taken to reduce the risks and drivers of potential weapons diversion,”

United States State Department

The State Department outlined its plan to safeguard the sensitive weapons the US has sent to Ukraine up to this point, vowing to bolster the ability of security forces to safeguard their arms and ammunition, strengthen border security in the region and enlist the help of local law enforcement to detect illicit weapons trafficking.

“Early US engagement with partners will focus on concrete steps that can be taken to reduce the risks and drivers of potential weapons diversion,” the State Department declared.

Pentagon Press Secretary Patrick Ryder called the initiatives “a broader effort of the US government to track US-provided capabilities and to prevent the illicit spread throughout Eastern Europe” in a Tuesday press conference.