Weapons in the Wrong Hands. US Arms to Ukraine Diverted to Criminal Gangs?
An Interpol official confirms the dangerous development to Just the Facts
An alarming report released Wednesday by the Defense Department Inspector General reveals that the U.S. has lost track of nearly all of the 40,000 sophisticated weapons sent to Ukraine’s front lines since February 2022.
The redacted report underscores that the advanced technology and compact size of these untracked weapons — including more than $1 billion in kamikaze and switchblade drones, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger shoulder-fired missiles, and night vision goggles — make them particularly appealing for arms smugglers and black market dealers.
Approximately 60 percent of the weapons were “delinquent,” meaning they were neither initially logged into a tracking database, nor added after shipment from American stockpiles.
Over a year ago, the Biden administration tried fixing this problem by providing Ukrainian troops with handheld bar code scanners to instantly upload weapon serial numbers into U.S. databases. However, this effort has had a minimal impact. Only ten scanners were sent to Ukraine and none reached the front lines, where the weapons are deployed.
The Inspector General said that determining whether any weapons were illegally diverted “was beyond the scope of our evaluation.”
The issue is a significant behind-the-scenes concern for American officials, particularly given Ukraine’s history of arms smuggling.
A senior Interpol official, on the condition of anonymity, told Just the Facts that the international crime fighting organization believes that “some undetermined number of U.S. weaponry intended for Ukraine has gotten to criminals.” Albanian crime syndicates are at the top of Interpol’s suspect list.
Interpol has no public comment. It will not even acknowledge that it is officially investigating the diversion of the U.S. arms. However, last June, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock warned publicly that “Once the guns fall silent [in Ukraine], the illegal weapons will come. We know this from many other theaters of conflict. The criminals are even now, as we speak, focusing on them. Criminal groups try to exploit these chaotic situations and the availability of weapons, even those used by the military and including heavy weapons. These will be available on the criminal market and will create a challenge. No country or region can deal with it in isolation because these groups operate at a global level.”
The Interpol official who spoke to Just the Facts said that Stock’s concerns had materialized earlier than thought likely.
“We anticipated that the conflict would end before we confronted weapons of war finding their way to the illicit market. The sheer volume of weapons, coupled with the difficulty in tracking them, has presented a challenge for law enforcement problem sooner than we had expected.”
The report, and news of Interpol’s apprehension about some American weapons entering the black market, comes at a bad time for the Biden administration. It is likely to fuel increasing Republican congressional opposition to further aid to Ukraine.