Experts warn arms for Ukraine could have disastrous consequences
Western nations have increased weapon and ammunition shipments to Ukraine, and experts warn that some of the "lethal aid" may wind up in the wrong hands.
After the US Senate overwhelmingly advanced on Monday a $40-billion package of aid for Ukraine against Russia, experts warned that some of the "lethal aid" from the West may wind up in the wrong hands.
Ukraine, in particular, has a history of being a hotspot of the arms trade throughout the 1990s, raising concerns among those who monitor illegal movements.
Nils Duquet, a researcher and director of the Flemish Peace Institute stated that "there are very significant risks associated to the proliferation of weapons in Ukraine at the moment, in particular regarding small arms and light weapons."
Western nations, most notably the US, have continuously pumped weapons into Kiev's army.
The US-based Stimson Center think-tank said in March that "while the response to provide more weapons to Ukraine is understandable..., it would be prudent to consider the immediate and long-term security implications."
Hinting specifically at small arms, it added, "We’ve seen time and time again how arms aimed at aiding an ally in one conflict have found their way to the frontlines of unforeseen battlefields, often in the hands of groups at odds with US interests or those of civilians."
Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, numerous weapons stored in Ukraine were transported to other nations and combat zones across the world.
Read more: US weapons to Ukraine “in a big black hole” - US official
According to the Geneva-based Institute of International and Development Studies' Small Arms Survey (SAS), 300,000 light weapons were stolen or lost between 2013 and 2015, with just 4,000 recovered since then.
Rather than being exported overseas as in the 1990s, the SAS discovered that the majority of these ended up on the illegal market within Ukraine.
SAS researcher Matt Schroeder speculated that "the unresolved conflict in the eastern part of the country and general anxiety towards local security conditions" could be why the demand for weapons has increased among normal citizens.
He added that "collecting these weapons and disposing of them properly would be an overwhelming challenge for any government, let alone one that is still fighting an existential threat."
Even before the present war, the inspector general of the US military questioned the amount of surveillance of weaponry transferred to Ukraine in 2020.
The Center for Civilians in Conflict (CivicAnnie)'s Shiel cautioned that "there has been very little transparency around what risk mitigation or monitoring steps the US and other countries sending weapons to Ukraine have taken if any... to ensure the protection of civilians".
The aid organization has demanded that deliveries be linked to human rights pledges and that guns be tracked after they are handed over.
Others believe the task to be impossible.
According to Nils Duquet, "It's an illusion to think that in a context of war you can actually have control of weapons there. We know that many weapons will not return to the official forces but they will remain in the region for many years."
Duquet drew attention to former Yugoslavia where even though some success was made, many weapons are still being smuggled across Europe.
One top French military official suggested a heinous consequence.
Referring to US-made anti-tank missiles, he stated, "We'll be laughing on the other side of our faces once we're seeing bank robberies with Javelins."