By Thalif Deen*
The five largest recipients of US weapons have traditionally included Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Qatar.
Ukraine, which was ranked as the 50th largest importer of US arms, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), is now set to make a giant leap upwards.
During 2017-2021, Saudi Arabia accounted for 23% of US arms exports, Australia 9.4%, South Korea 6.8%, Japan 6.7% and Qatar 5.4%.
But these were all paying customers compared to Ukraine which has received billions of dollars in US weapons gratis—in its five-month-old battle against one of the world’s major nuclear powers.
The distribution of weapons, including large donations from Western Europe, are being coordinated by the International Donor Coordination Center, which has moved over 78,000 tons of arms and ammunitions worth more than $10 billion, both from US and Western allies, according to the New York Times.
In a fact Sheet released July 22, the State Department said the United States has committed a staggering $8.2 billion in arms and security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration in early 2021, with an accelerated flow of weapons following the Russian invasion on February 24.
A partial breakdown of US arms to Ukraine includes:
Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; more than 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems.
Over 20,000 other anti-armor systems.
Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.
126 155mm Howitzers and up to 411,000 155mm artillery rounds.
72,000 105mm artillery rounds.
126 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers.
22 Tactical Vehicles to recover equipment.
16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and ammunition.
Four Command Post vehicles.
Two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).
20 Mi-17 helicopters.
Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.
200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers.
Over 10,000 grenade launchers and small arms.
Over 59,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition.
75,000 sets of body armor and helmets.
Approximately 700 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Laser-guided rocket systems—and more.
Norman Solomon, Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy and Director, RootsAction.org told IDN the massive arms shipments from the United States to Ukraine are in sync with the refusal of the US government to engage in serious diplomatic efforts as the horrific Russian war on Ukraine continues.
“The military-industrial complex of the USA is thriving on the war crimes of the Kremlin, as if in a macabre and tacit partnership. It’s not difficult to discern some forms of glee—in effect, “let’s you and them fight”—from the governing U.S. establishment as it voices enthusiastic support for Ukrainian people who are suffering and dying. Yet the war can only end through negotiations and diplomacy,” he said.
There is scarcely any evidence that the top policymakers in Washington have real interest in seeking to nurture diplomatic initiatives that could halt the carnage, argued Solomon.
“Instead, we get endless rhetorical flourishes in harmony with the sounds of massive weapons shipments being rushed to Ukraine. For the arms contractors making a killing, it’s win-win; this is a war they cannot lose.”
It is mere realism to observe how fantastically lucrative the ongoing war is proving to be for US-based weapons dealers—and a longer war means still more huge profits, said Solomon, author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death“.
He said the recent news reports that the White House is “exploring” whether to ship fighter jets to Ukraine is a further indication that the US administration is in the midst of extremely dangerous mission creep.
Back on March 11, President Biden declared that sending jets with US pilots and crews to Ukraine would amount to “World War III.”
Yet, he is now reportedly considering a big step in that direction. Instead of more massive shipments of weaponry, what’s desperately needed is a commitment to leave no stone unturned on behalf of finding diplomatic solutions that can end this war, said Solomon.
Meanwhile, the State Department says the United States is committed to strengthening allies and partners worldwide to meet their sovereign self-defense needs and to improve their capabilities to operate with US forces to address shared security challenges.
The Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs oversees most government-to-government arms transfers and commercial export licensing of U.S.-origin defense equipment and technologies, consistent with the Arms Export Control Act, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and other statutory authorities and relevant international agreements.
Additionally, according to the July 22 State Department Fact Sheet, US weapons to Ukraine also included:
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
- Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
- 26 counter-artillery radars;
- Four counter-mortar radars;
- Four air surveillance radars;
- Two harpoon coastal defense systems;
- 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats;
- M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
- C-4 explosives, demolition munitions, and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing;
- Tactical secure communications systems;
- Thousands of night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
- Commercial satellite imagery services;
- Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
- Medical supplies to include first aid kits;
- Electronic jamming equipment;
- Field equipment and spare parts;
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
The United States also continues to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with additional capabilities to defend itself.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Russian Federation’s military and paramilitary services are equipped mostly with domestically-produced weapons systems, although since 2010, Russia has imported limited amounts of military hardware from several countries, including Czechia, France, Israel, Italy, Turkey, and Ukraine.
The Russian defense industry is also capable of designing, developing, and producing a full range of advanced air, land, missile, and naval systems. As of 2021, Russia is the world’s second largest exporter of military hardware.
The Russian armed forces include approximately 850,000 total active-duty troops (300,000 Ground Troops; 40,000 Airborne Troops; 150,000 Navy; 160,000 Aerospace Forces; 70,000 Strategic Rocket Forces; approximately 20,000 special operations forces; approximately 100,000 other uniformed personnel (command and control, cyber, support, logistics, security, etc.); estimated 200-250,000 Federal National Guard Troops.
Thalif Deen is a former Director, Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and military editor Middle East/Africa at Jane’s Information Group, US.