Could Canada’s weapons fall into the wrong hands in Ukraine?
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has been on a cross European tour to drum up more donations of weapons – especially fighter jets. This week he addressed the European Council in Brussels and the British Parliament in London, and met separately with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The Ukraine war has resulted in an unprecedented transfer of weapons, say our friends at Project Ploughshares. And the West’s rush to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion is risking many years of international arms control work to control the arms trade: the Arms Trade Treaty.
The landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms – from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships – entered into force on 24 December 2014.
In their latest report, Cesar Jaramillo and Kelsey Gallagher note since February 2022, the United States has committed $26.7-billion USD in military aid to Ukraine. According to available estimates, as of August 2022, the next top providers of military aid by value were the United Kingdom, the European Union, Germany, Poland, Canada, and Norway. With the notable exception of the United States, all the states that have pledged any significant level of military aid to Ukraine are states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.
“There has been no armed conflict of the magnitude of the one in Ukraine since the Arms Trade Treaty came into effect,” they write. “Not in living memory has there been such a volume of arms transferred to a single recipient from multiple suppliers in so short a span of time.”
The two experts raise concerns about the potential for weapons sent by Canada and other countries to fall into the hands of criminals or terrorist groups. “Because of the volume of arms being provided to Ukraine and the possibly hampered capacity of the Ukrainian government to manage those arms, a clear and present risk of diversion to illegitimate third parties exists – either during the conflict or following it,” the write.
Given recent corruption scandals in Ukraine – including their own Defence Minister – the likelihood of such illegal diversions remains seriously high. But given the urgency countries like Canada have placed in delivering weapons, little attention has been paid to the ATT and our obligations.