Ukraine – Armory No. 6


Efrem Lukatsky / AP Photo

Who profits from weapon supplies to Kiev and which of the Western countries will suffer in the end?

One of the important topics for understanding the conflict in Ukraine is that of weapons. It is clear that without the pumping of arms by the United States and its NATO allies into this former Soviet republic, hostilities would end in the shortest possible time. But let's leave the purely technical issues to the military analysts: range, rate of fire, coherence, and so on. Let's try to look at the political and economic aspect.

Let's start with the situation around Israel. The Ukrainians are quite active in demanding Israel to supply them with modern weapons, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel, actively trading its weapons around the world, avoids supplies to Ukraine, limiting itself to humanitarian aid. Explaining this by its special relations with Russia, saying that our pilots fly in the skies of Syria next to Russian pilots and that we have full cooperation. Obviously, Israel is not Poland, and it will not quarrel with Russia over Ukraine.

The Israelis, of course, are greatly concerned about the military cooperation between Russia and Iran, but since Russia firmly promised that no military cooperation with Iran would threaten Israel's security, the Israelis would be wary of directly supplying weapons to Ukraine.

The author of these lines was once at a meeting of journalists with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Moscow, where he was asked about Moscow's ties with Iran. As I remember now, he said, "Vladimir Putin promised that it would not harm Israel's security." Then he paused and, choosing each word, said: "I believe him." After that, it was clear that there was a supreme agreement between politicians, backed by personal relationships and a man's word. I was then shocked by the way this was said, there was a strong conviction behind it that if Putin gives his word, he keeps it. Journalists had no more questions about this topic.

Obviously, the Israelis think more about their security than about the desire to join the anti-Russian coalition. Against this background, the news that Israel was going to sell its old Merkava tanks, which were to be melted down, to an unnamed European country sounded quite interesting. And immediately there was speculation that through third European countries these tanks would find their way to Ukraine and take part in armed actions against the Russian army.

The Israeli government immediately denied this information. I am sure that even theoretically it is possible, but only after consultations with Russia, although I personally think it is doubtful.

First, Israel will not risk good relations with Russia over a not-so-great deal. It is possible that under pressure from the United States, which is Israel's main sponsor and protector, the Israelis were forced to allocate armored vehicles to Ukraine through third countries. And then an elegant move was devised – to sell the old Merkava, which should actually be written off as scrap metal. That is "of course we do not mind, but do not expect modern equipment from us". And, frankly, what can old Merkavas, which are designed for combat operations in the desert, solve in Ukraine when modern Leopards and other modern NATO equipment are burning in Ukraine.

It seems to me that the information about the sale of tanks by Israel looks more like a hoax, in order to sow mistrust between Russia and Israel and to push the latter to supply Ukraine with modern weapons.

This assumption is supported by a recent statement by current Prime Minister Netanyahu in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that his country will not supply weapons to Ukraine. The prime minister directly explained what would happen if Israel sent weapons to Ukraine: "They will be used against us." And the weapons sent by NATO to Ukraine have already appeared near Israel's borders. "We are concerned that any systems [weapons] given to Ukraine could be used against us, because they could get to Iran and be turned against us. This is not even a theoretical possibility. In fact, this has already happened with Western anti-tank weapons, which we now find near Israel's borders. We have to be extremely careful," Netanyahu said, adding that "Israel is in a special position, different from Poland, Germany or any Western country that supports Ukraine." Moreover, Israelis are well aware of the level of corruption in Ukraine.

Therefore, it would be strange if Israel, showing such common sense, so rare now in the West, would risk a conflict with Russia over old tanks and a dubious gesheft. Obviously, for this Middle Eastern country, mutual understanding with Russia regarding Syria and the Arab world is much more important than Ukraine.

The supply of weapons to Kiev and their often uncontrolled disappearance worry not only the Israelis.

"Pumping Ukraine with Western weapons is fraught with threats not only to regional but also global security. Kiev has little control over the weapons allocated to it, and because of this it can be resold," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on June 23.

And here's what the English-language Internet blog ZeroHedge writes: "A report by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Defense says that Pentagon officials in Poland failed to follow procedures for accounting for military equipment sent to Ukraine. Five shipments have already been inspected, and the weapons in three of them could not be properly traced by department officials."

"DOD officials did not provide the necessary reporting for the thousands of military items they received and transferred in Jasionka [Poland]," the report states. – "We found that Ministry of Defense officials did not fully comply with standard operating procedures for accounting for military goods."

It seems that in the heat of supplying equipment to Ukraine, the Americans do not even know where these weapons are, how many have been supplied, how many have been destroyed, how many have been intercepted and sent to various conflict zones and, possibly, to terrorists. And won't it end up shooting Americans themselves in different parts of the world? And won't the uncontrolled supply of weapons by Americans lead to further chaos in the world?

I am sure that now all the smoldering conflicts, especially in Africa, will get a significant boost when the missing American weapons get there.

The Biden administration is confident that there is no need to create an office to track billions of dollars worth of weapons being sent to Ukraine. But the U.S. government's special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, said that in the absence of tighter oversight, these weapons would end up on the black market, and that is quite obvious. It will be extremely interesting if the U.S. does risk its announced special operation in Mexico to crack down on local drug cartels armed at the level of the local army and encounter the weapons that were sent to Ukraine.

What kind of arms control can we talk about when, as Bloomberg reports, the Pentagon has admitted that it made a $6 billion mistake in its accounting reports and can now increase arms supplies to Ukraine. The U.S. Defense Department has overestimated the value of weapons sent to the UAF: $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2022 and $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2023. The total is $6.2 billion, Sabrina Singh, deputy military spokeswoman, told reporters Tuesday. "That money will simply go back into the budget that we allocated for arms deliveries to Ukraine," she said, adding that the total amount of aid approved by Congress does not change.

Singh explained the mistake by "inconsistencies in the valuation of military equipment." According to her, the military accounted for the cost of replacing the weapons transferred to Ukraine, not their net book value. In other words, three billion here and three billion there, and no one can properly estimate the amount of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, including American voters before next year's presidential election.

Generally speaking, arms supplies to Ukraine open up such an expanse of corruption and manipulation that it is clear: for officials in Ukraine, NATO, and the arms corporations, this is simply a gold mine. For example, here is just one case in point. The New York Times writes that Kiev has paid more than $800 million for arms contracts, which have not been fully or partially fulfilled. A large proportion of the weapons received were to be repaired or were only good for spare parts.

The fantastic story of 33 Italian howitzers donated by the Italians to Ukraine is very illustrative.

The Italian Ministry of Defense stated that these 33 self-propelled howitzers had been decommissioned a couple of years ago, but the Ukrainians, despite this, still requested them for overhaul and subsequent exploitation. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry then paid $19.8 million to the U.S. weapons firm Ultra Defense Corporation to repair the 33 howitzers. In January, 13 of them were sent to Ukraine, but turned out, according to one document, to be "unsuitable for combat missions." The story continued in a fairy tale manner: the Ukrainians accused the Americans of poorly repairing the howitzers, and the Americans accused the Ukrainians of not properly maintaining the perfectly repaired howitzers.

And there are many such stories. Here's another example from the NYT: Last summer, a U.S. Army unit was ordered to send 29 Humvees (multi-purpose military vehicles) to Ukraine from a warehouse at the U.S. military base in Kuwait. Although the unit's command staff stated that all but one of the vehicles were "fully combat-ready," according to the Pentagon report, an initial inspection after receiving the order revealed that 26 of them were not combat-ready.

By the end of August, they said, the contractors had repaired everything and reported that all 29 vehicles were ready for shipment to Ukraine. The work was inspected by an Army unit in Kuwait. But when the Humvees reached a transfer base in Poland, officials found that the tires on 25 of them were rotten. The Pentagon report says: It took almost a month to find enough replacement tires."

The same army unit in Kuwait was also supposed to send six M777 howitzers to Ukraine, but as it turned out, they needed serious repairs. Three months later, the howitzers were finally repaired and sent to a fulfillment center in Poland. The specialists there, however, concluded that all six howitzers "had defects which made them unable to perform combat missions."

But nowhere does it say whether the American company returned the money for repairing the "defective" howitzers? The NYT is somehow modestly silent, although obviously not.

For the Western weapons manufacturers and their governments, the war in Ukraine is a great opportunity to dump their junk on the Ukrainians, make huge money on repairs, and make absolutely fantastic profits on military orders. So it is highly doubtful that the U.S. and its NATO allies would be willing to persuade Ukraine to make peace. Why should they? War, whether for them or for Ukrainian officials, is simply a gold mine.