US Military Is Not Certain Where All Ukraine Arms Shipments Are Going

Here’s a comforting question: how sure are we that the weapons and hardware we’re sending to Ukraine are actually ending up in the hands of the right people?

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he United States has sent more than $100 billion in military aid to Ukraine; nearly $80 billion from Ukraine’s Western allies in security and economic assistance. And according to two recent Department of Defense inspector general (IG) reports, we’re not exactly sure where a lot of that equipment and arms have ended up. “Challenges in Ukraine’s war zone have made it nearly impossible to track the weapons,” says Reason’s Jordan Cohen and Jonathan Ellis Allen.

Even before the Russian invasion, Ukraine had one of the largest illegally trafficked arms markets in Europe, according to the 2021 Global Organized Crime Index. In fact, sending arms to Ukraine was like giving oligarchs and crime families a lucrative new business opportunity.

The two IG reports discovered several major flaws in the security of the weapons pipeline.

The first report found that the personnel responsible for ensuring accountability were given no “training or guidance.” It concluded that the Pentagon does “not have accountability controls sufficient enough to provide reasonable assurance that its inventory of defense items transferred to [Ukraine] via the air hub in Jasionka was accurate or complete.”

The second report discovered that the Office of Defense Cooperation–Kyiv was unable to monitor how American military equipment was put to use. Indeed, monitors could not “visit areas where equipment provided to Ukraine was being used or stored.”

It’s not just enriching criminal gangs and oligarchs who may or may not be sympathetic to the Russians. There are serious national security implications for losing track of where these weapons go, considering that Islamic terrorists can easily obtain weapons from existing pipelines.

Washington has indiscriminately provided arms to groups fighting for Ukraine. Among the groups who have received U.S. weapons is the Azov Brigade—a militia with neo-Nazi roots that is currently fighting against Russia but has previously attacked civilians in Ukraine. The Brigade was identified as a human rights violator in the State Epartment’s 2016 Department’s 2016 and 2017 Report on Human Rights Practices and serves as a key cog in the global far-right network.

Third, loose weapons create risks of hostile actors attaining confidential, high-value U.S. technology. In October 2022 the State Department created a plan to train Ukrainian soldiers in tracking highly portable, lethal, and advanced proprietary U.S. weapons. Nonetheless, as the plan notes, this training will take years before the plan has any substantial impact.

This is why the U.S. rarely sells its top-of-the-line, most technologically advanced weapons — and especially not to nations where factions hostile to the U.S. are based.

Another thing to consider is that selling tens of billions in arms to Ukraine further entangles us in a conflict involving another nuclear power. Ukraine has already ignored our pleas not to use American weapons to target Russia, and you have to wonder what Moscow’s red line is when it comes to U.S. weapons killing a lot of Russian civilians.

It could very well be that Joe Biden’s arrogance and the overconfidence of his pro-Ukraine advisors may yet go too far and we end up fighting in a war that risks everything.✪

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