HomeOpinion & AnalysisUkraine’s illegal arms market a recipe for disaster

Ukraine’s illegal arms market a recipe for disaster


According to the Global Organised Crime Index, Ukraine is the largest illegal arms market with “few barriers” and “millions of small arms and light weapons”.

 Its role has only strengthened with the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, experts warn.

Washington alone has already supplied or promised military equipment to Ukraine in 2022, including: 7,000 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank systems;  at least 200 Stinger man-portable air defense systems; hundreds of Switchblade kamikaze drones, 7,000 assault rifles with 50 million rounds, laser-guided missiles and radar systems for detecting drones and adjusting artillery fire and HIMARS high precision missile systems.

But the full list of all weapons that the West supplies to Ukraine is enormous.

These weapons will soon appear in Europe and other continents.

Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock warned that a huge amount of the weapons that Western countries supply to Ukraine would end up in criminal hands, The Guardian reports.

According to Stock, illegal arms dealers operate globally.

 Therefore, the Ukrainian arsenal, including heavy arms, will soon appear on the black markets far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

“We can expect an influx of weapons in Europe and beyond.

“We should be alarmed and we have to expect these weapons to be trafficked not only to neighboring countries but to other continents,” he said.

Researcher and director of the Flemish Peace Institute, Nils Duquet, warns about the same.

“There are very significant risks associated to the proliferation of weapons in Ukraine at the moment, in particular regarding small arms and light weapons,” Duquet said.

The expert considers the task to track weapons through conflict zones almost impossible.

They say US tracks only 1% of its arms exports.

“It is illusionary to think that in the context of war, you can actually control the weapons in Ukraine.

“We know that many types of weapons will not return to official forces, but will remain in the region for many years,” Duquet said.

Ukrainian media reported that a member of the Kharkiv Territorial Defence battalion posted an ad on the Internet selling weapons and grenades.

He found a buyer in Odessa.

However, the police appeared during the meeting, which caused the seller to throw a grenade at the officers.

US officials also seem to realise the danger.

US Congress demanded control over the arms that the United States supplied as part of US$40 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

New military supplies will lose congressmen’s support otherwise.

The State Department tracks only one percent of the total number of arms ex-port licenses.

Of this small percentage, 25% of investigations were “unfavora-ble”.

In other words, the track of those weapons was either lost or recipient foreign governments did not respond to requests.

Military observers told that Ukraine was selling the supplied weapons, because due to lawlessness, weapons could easily fall into the hands of terrorists.

“The United States supplied Stingers to Ukraine.

“Those Stingers can be used anywhere, including against American aircraft, for instance.

“Those systems may end up in the Middle East, South Asia, and so on. The profit is what’s most important for the American businessmen. The brains come secondary,” the experts said.

A senior French officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP that “we will take a different look at the situation and stop smiling when we see bank robbers with Javelins.”

Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Arms Transfers Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), says most of the weapons being sent to Ukraine are from existing military supplies.

Some countries have sent older items that were “on the way out already” – but many, like the US and UK, have sent newer stocks that will need to be replaced, he told Sky News.

Kristen Bayes, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, says the provision of weapons to Ukraine is understandable but “not problem-free”.

“You might think you’re handing over weapons to people you know and like, but then they get sold on to people you absolutely don’t know,” she tells Sky News.

A Mr Wezeman from SIPRI says weapons supplied to Ukraine “may end up dis-appearing into the black market” – an increased risk given that the country “isn’t in full control of its territory”.

He says it is difficult to keep track of weapons when they have to be supplied at such speed and there is a risk of them getting “lost or disappearing in the chaos”.

He says there is little that can be done about this now but as soon as the war ends, a good programme needs to be put in place to collect weapons from civilians.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, has previously acknowledged that some weapons given to Ukraine have also been ending up in the hands of Russians.

Replenishing stocks sent to Ukraine is not the only new business opportunity for Western arms manufacturers.

Wezeman says countries that traditionally buy a lot of military equipment from Russia may look elsewhere due to how poorly some of the same products have performed in Ukraine.

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