No Evidence of Weapon Misuse in Ukraine, US Officials Claim During Hearing on Aid
03:24 GMT 30.03.2023 (Updated: 05:35 GMT 30.04.2023)
© AP Photo / Evgeniy MaloletkaUkrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer.
© AP Photo / Evgeniy Maloletka
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee on aid to Ukraine lawmakers spent hours listening to witness testimony from officials observing the agencies responsible for distributing the billions in aid given to Ukraine by America.
The watchdogs claim that so far, no evidence of misuse of American funds or weapons has been seen in Ukraine.
Some Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration for giving Ukraine what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy described as a “blank check” in the lead-up to the midterm elections that took place in November.
During the hearing, however, Republican lawmakers seemed to back away from that assertion, clarifying that the hearing did not indicate that they are unwilling to send more aid to Ukraine.
“To be clear, I do not conduct this oversight to undermine or question the importance of support for Ukraine,” said committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), “but rather -- to the contrary -- oversight should incentivize the administration and Ukraine to use funds from Congress with the highest degree of efficiency and effectiveness.”
That did not satisfy Democratic lawmakers in the committee, including New York Representative Gregory Meeks who said that the “MAGA Republicans” are helping Russia simply by holding the hearing. Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, took it a step further, saying the committee should instead be talking about how to get more weapons into the hands of Ukrainians.
“I think we should talk about more important issues, like how do we make sure other countries don't give additional assistance to Russia? How do we make sure Ukraine has the long-range weapons they need to win this war?” Lieu asked the committee.
The watchdogs admitted that they do not have a full accounting of every dollar spent in Ukraine. “We're doing oversight at the speed of war,” said Department of Defense Inspector General Robert Storch.
The watchdogs also admitted that the situation may change as the conflict progresses.
One Republican suggested that a new office be created specifically to monitor aid to Ukraine, something the United States did in 2008 with Afghanistan.
In contrast to the assurances from US watchdogs, multiple international agencies, including Interpol and Europol, have expressed concerns that the weapons in Ukraine may end up in other European countries or elsewhere in the world. In October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the monthly amount of weapons smuggling in Ukraine exceeds $1 billion.
“The monthly amount of smuggling on this black market exceeds $1 billion. NATO’s military supplies addressed to the Kiev regime end up in the hands of terrorists, extremists and criminal groups in the Middle East, Central Africa and Southeast Asia,” she said.
Last June, a screenshot of US-made Javelin rocket launchers being sold on the dark web was posted by ASB Military News on Telegram. The United States dismissed the post as “Russian propaganda.”
18 July 2022, 06:47 GMT
The issue of F-16 fighter jets and MQ-9 drones, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked for, also came up during the hearings.
“That won’t help them in this current fight,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said, while not ruling out the possibility that they could be given F-16s or “some other fourth-generation aircraft” in the future, likely after the conflict.
Austin also said that the F-16s would be counteracted by Russia’s robust air defense capabilities.
“That air domain is a very hostile airspace because of the capability that the Russians have for air defense,” he added.
Russia has warned the United States and NATO about providing further weapons to Ukraine, saying that doing so will increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.