Polish, Kazakh Arms Illegally Transferred

The illegal transfer of Soviet-era weapons from Kazakhstan and Poland to North Korea and Sudan respectively, two countries the United States classifies as state-sponsors of terrorism, raised the prospect of suspension of U.S. aid to Almaty and Warsaw in September. The United States, according to U.S. government officials, is still "working" the Kazakhstan case, while the Polish matter has been "resolved" with no cutting of U.S. aid.

U.S. law proscribes the appropriation of Foreign Assistance Act funds for states that export "lethal military equipment" to state-sponsors of international terrorism, though the secretary of state can impose other sanctions or waive any penalty.

Kazakhstan is facing the loss of approximately $15 million in aid for the alleged transfer of 30-40 MiG-21 fighter aircraft to North Korea. The Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said the government was not involved in the transactions, and a U.S. government official said that there was "no reason" to believe President Nursultan Nazarbayev knew of the transfers. In a government shake-up in August associated with the arms deal, the defense minister and national security committee chairman were fired. Kazakhstan has requested the return of the MiGs, which North Korea claims it never received.

Polish officials admitted at the end of August that a shipment of 20 T-55 tanks never arrived in Yemen, their intended destination. Reports suggest the tanks turned up in Sudan. Poland canceled delivery of the remaining 30 tanks in the deal, which Washington had warned Warsaw against undertaking in the first place. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said September 7 that there was no "ill will" on the part of the Polish government.

Despite the diverted Polish transfer, the Czech government confirmed in October its intention to sell some 90 T-55 tanks to Yemen. One U.S. official said that Washington is "watching the deal very closely."