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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
April 2018
Edition Date: 
Sunday, April 1, 2018
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More Chemical Attacks Reported in Syria

The United States and Russia continue to clash at the UN Security Council over investigations.


April 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Reports of chemical weapons attacks in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta surfaced in March as attempts continued at the UN Security Council to restart investigations to identify the perpetrators of banned chemical weapons use in Syria.

There were at least two chlorine gas attacks in rebel-held eastern Ghouta in March, according to local reports that blamed the Syrian government, for the attacks. The Syrian American Medical Society reported that 29 victims were treated in one facility on March 7. Another chlorine gas attack was reported in the same region on March 11. These follow at least five alleged chemical weapons attacks in January and February.

A Syrian man shows remnants of rockets reportedly fired by regime forces on the rebel-held town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on January 22, 2018. (Photo: HASAN MOHAMED/AFP/Getty Images)Although Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 and subsequently declared and removed what it said was its chemical weapons stockpile, attacks since then indicate that Syria did not disclose its entire arsenal.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) created several investigative bodies to address concerns about Syria’s actions. The Declaration Assessment Team reported on March 2 to the OPCW Executive Council on its investigation of Syria’s chemical weapons declaration. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, which is tasked with verifying alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria, will issue a report soon, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, told the UN Security Council on Feb. 5.

Efforts are underway to revive investigations to identify the perpetrators of attacks in Syria. Investigations stalled in late 2017 after Russia, which backs the Syrian government with military aid, prevented the Security Council from extending the mandate for the UN-OPCW joint investigative team. (See ACT, December 2017.)

Russia circulated a proposal on Jan. 23 to renew such investigations, which the United States quickly dismissed as an attempt to distract from a launch the same day of a French-led initiative to prevent “impunity” for those authorizing chemical attacks. The United States also objected to the Russian draft’s terms, which included mandating that investigators visit all attack sites, even though many are in areas too dangerous to reach. In early March, the United States circulated an alternative draft resolution to restart the investigation effort.

Russian state-run media have quoted Russian military officials as claiming the recent chlorine gas attacks are a so-called false flag operation in which the rebels attack their own people to blame the Syrian regime, to draw international sympathy for their fight, and as a possible pretext for U.S. airstrikes against Syrian government sites.

The reported continuing use of chemical weapons has drawn strong international condemnation. “The civilized world must not tolerate the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical weapons,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on March 4. French President Emmanuel Macron threatened on March 14 to order military strikes against launch sites should there be sufficient evidence that chemical weapons were used against civilians.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü described the allegations as a “source of grave concern” in a March 13 address to a meeting of the OPCW Executive Council. Timothy Edwards, Canada’s acting permanent representative to the OPCW, argued that Syrian noncooperation with the Declaration Assessment Team and Fact-Finding Mission should disqualify it from maintaining the “rights and privileges of OPCW membership.”

In neighboring Iraq, the OPCW confirmed the destruction on March 13 of Iraq’s remaining chemical weapons stockpile, which consisted of remnants stored in two bunkers. Although Iraq initially declared the bunkers in 2009 as containing chemical weapons, destruction did not begin until 2017 due to hazardous conditions.

 

Diplomats Urge Unity Ahead of NPT Meeting

Representatives seek practical steps to uphold the nonproliferation regime ahead of the treaty’s 50th anniversary.


April 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Representatives to the second preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference will seek to focus on shared goals in the face of daunting obstacles to a successful outcome.

Adam Bugajski, Poland’s permanent representative to the UN Office and international organizations in Vienna, will chair the meeting, which is scheduled to be held April 23-May 4 in Geneva. Bugajski previously served as security policy director at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Poland’s deputy permanent representative to NATO.

Participants at the first preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May 2017 in Vienna. (Photo: United Nations Information Service Vienna / Agata Wozniak)As chair of the conference, Bugajski said he intends to stress that “there is no single road toward disarmament and that disarmament is not only about reductions.”

Bugajski began consulting with member states and civil society representatives shortly after the first preparatory committee meeting in May 2017, he told Arms Control Today in a March 14 email. The consultations included regional seminars in Mexico City, Addis Ababa, and Jakarta and regional group consultations in Geneva, Vienna, and New York. Bugajski also established a task force for the conference at the Polish Foreign Ministry.

Other representatives highlighted the need for practical steps to uphold the NPT regime ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2020 and in light of mounting challenges.

“Our main objective is really quite straightforward, and one hopefully shared by the vast majority of NPT members,” Carl Magnus Eriksson, director and deputy head of the Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arms Control Today in a March 12 email. “It is to demonstrate the continued vitality and indispensable role of the NPT framework despite many challenging circumstances.”

Jamie Walsh, Ireland’s deputy director for disarmament and nonproliferation, said in a March 16 email to Arms Control Today, “In order to remain relevant and effective it is critical that the treaty, which has long been at the center of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, doesn’t become stagnant. Simply reiterating commitments is not enough; there must be momentum and progress.”

Diplomats cited a number of challenges that could inhibit progress at the meeting, including a lack of trust among member states, the global security environment, and North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programs.

Given these challenges, several disarmament representatives encouraged member states to concentrate on areas of common interest.

Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, chided those pursuing “unrealistic agendas that cannot gain consensus” in a March 26 email to Arms Control Today. The United States will continue to remind states that “that disarmament efforts cannot be divorced from the broader international security environment,” he wrote.

Eriksson suggested focusing on “practical measures to reduce risks, enhance transparency and build confidence.” Other officials echoed the need for practical measures. Both Nobushige Takamizawa, Japanese permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), and an official in the German foreign ministry, who commented on a nonattribution basis, recommended member states include a focus on implementing previously agreed steps, including the 2010 action plan.

States are already considering how to bridge divides, such as the advancement of disarmament, which could threaten conference unity. The committee will be the first gathering of NPT states-parties since the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in September 2017, which is opposed by nuclear-weapon states. (See ACT, October 2017.)

Walsh, whose government was one of leading negotiators of the 2017 treaty, stated that, at the committee meetings, Ireland would “continue to emphasize the synergies that exist” between the prohibition treaty and the NPT and hopes that the sessions “will offer an opportunity to dispel any suggestion that states that were actively to the fore in negotiating the [prohibition treaty] are somehow disengaging from the NPT.”

Takamizawa encouraged all nuclear-weapon states to take “concrete disarmament measures, even small
steps that they can accomplish on a voluntary basis.”

Hans Brattskar, permanent representative of Norway to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, pointed to the success of cooperative measures between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, such as on nuclear disarmament verification. “From a Norwegian perspective, it is essential to foster the confidence needed for balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable reductions of nuclear arsenals in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, another disarmament body, the long-stalled CD, agreed on Feb. 16 to create subsidiary bodies to take forward a substantive program of work. The 65-member body, which operates on consensus, last agreed to programs of work in 2009 and in 1998.

Five subsidiary committees were established to address the cessation of the nuclear arms race, the prevention of nuclear war, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, new types of weapons of mass destruction, a comprehensive program of disarmament, and transparency in armaments.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a Feb. 16 statement, welcomed the move and urged CD members to “redouble their efforts and forge a new consensus for disarmament.” In his email, Bugajski also praised the development, but recommended “caution and patience,” given the failure of the body to implement the program of work adopted in 2009.

On March 15, the CD deadlocked over the coordinators for the five bodies, but after intensive consultations, the matter was resolved by adjusting the program of work.

“As a former French delegate to the CD, I can confirm that, oftentimes, procedural issues are a fig leaf for substantive differences,” wrote Marc Finaud, senior program adviser at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, in a Feb. 16 email to Arms Control Today.

 

Trump Touts Saudi Arms Sales

Senate measure on Yemen war falls short.


April 2018
By Jeff Abramson

As U.S. senators questioned military support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, President Donald Trump extolled U.S. arms sales in a high-profile meeting with the Saudi crown prince.

In public remarks at the White House by the president and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 20, Trump held up posters with pictures of U.S. military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and boasted, “We make the best military product in the world, whether it’s missiles or planes or anything else.”

President Donald Trump holds up a chart highlighting U.S. military hardware sales to Saudi Arabia as he meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on March 20.  (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)These sales “really [mean] many, many jobs. We’re talking about over 40,000 jobs in the United States,” Trump said. No basis for that number was provided, nor was a time frame because many of the arms sales cited cover a number of years.

Two days after the Oval Office meeting, the administration notified Congress of potential arms sales valued at more than $1 billion, including more than 6,500 anti-tank missiles, as well as services and parts for Abrams tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters, and other military equipment.

Just before the visit, a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) again found the United States to be the world’s largest arms exporter in a growing international market, with Riyadh remaining by far the largest importer of U.S. weapons. (See ACT, March 2017.)

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been controversial, most recently as the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has attacked civilian targets and contributed to humanitarian suffering in the country. Last year, 47 senators voted unsuccessfully to stop a sale of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

On the same day as the White House meeting, the Senate narrowly failed to pass a measure that sought to end U.S. military support to the Saudi war in Yemen, specifically referencing aerial refueling, intelligence sharing, and targeting assistance to Saudi-led forces. Saying that Congress had not approved U.S. military engagement and invoking the war powers resolution, 44 senators voted to bring the measure to the full Senate, where presumably it would have passed should a majority have agreed to its full consideration.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who was among a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, said afterward, “Every day that America keeps helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen, we are less safe as a nation.” The vote “is a signal that the U.S. Senate is not going to stand idly by and let this fatal foreign policy mistake continue unabated,” he said.

SIPRI’s annual report on trends in international transfers of major weapons systems confirmed a central place for Saudi Arabia among the 98 countries to which the United States exported weapons from 2013 to 2017. Riyadh, whose total imports more than quintupled in that period, accounted for 18 percent of Washington’s exports, more than twice that of the next largest U.S. weapons importer, the United Arab Emirates.

As conflicts affected nearly all the countries in the Middle East, arms imports into the region more than doubled, with Saudi Arabia importing hundreds of combat aircraft and helicopters, tanks, and armored vehicles. The report drew extra attention to the transfer of missiles for use against ground targets by Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE from China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The United States alone accounted for 34 percent of global exports during 2013-2017, up from 30 percent during the previous five-year period, and a significantly larger share than Russia, the second-largest exporter at 22 percent. Although the total volume of international arms trade rose by 10 percent during the period, Russia’s share declined in part due to reduced deliveries to Algeria, China, and Venezuela. Russia remains the largest supplier to the world’s top arms importer, India; but the United States is now New Delhi’s second-largest arms supplier, with U.S. exports to the country up 557 percent.

The Trump administration’s approach to arms sales appears to differ from that of the Obama administration in its emphasis on economic considerations over human rights, according to a report released last month by the Security Assistance Monitor. The Security Assistance Monitor report also challenges the Trump administration’s promotion of arms sales for their economic and jobs benefits, noting that many proposed sales include provisions for foreign manufacturing.

Further, some U.S. lawmakers are calling into question the economic logic of waivers to Saudi Arabia that would reduce the price it pays for the $15 billion Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system notified in October 2017, the single-largest notification of the year. Bloomberg reported on March 21 that the Saudis received what amounts to a $3.5 billion price cut through waivers from a U.S. law requiring foreign purchasers of U.S. weapons to pay part of the Defense Department’s costs in developing them.

Such waivers are now relatively commonplace, according to a Government Accountability Office report in January 2018; but Bloomberg quoted House Armed Services Committee member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) saying, “American taxpayers are footing the bill for billions of dollars for researching and developing the weapons we sell to foreign governments.”

Banned Russian Toxin Used in UK Attack

Assassination attempt indicates Russia has a nerve agent in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.


April 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

An attempted assassination of a former Russian spy with a highly lethal Russian-developed nerve agent calls into question Moscow’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and threatens to further undermine the norm against chemical weapons use.

The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States were the first to accuse the Russian government of carrying out the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, UK, on March 4 using the chemical agent Novichok. As a consequence, the United States announced March 26 that it was expelling 60 Russian diplomats, joining more than 20 European countries taking similar actions to punish Moscow.

A police officer in a protective suit and mask works near the scene where former double-agent Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were found after being attacked with a nerve agent on March 16, 2018 in Salisbury, UK. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

 

“No country except Russia has the combined capability in chemical warfare, intent to weaponize this agent, and motive to target the principal victim,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in a March 13 letter to the president of the UN Security Council.

The Russian government has initiated assassinations on UK soil previously, including the targeted killing of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko by a radioactive isotope in London in 2006, which President Vladimir Putin allegedly authorized.

Alexander Shulgin, Russian permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), derided UK accusations as “nothing but fiction and another instance of the dirty information war being waged on Russia,” during a March 13 OPCW Executive Council meeting. Although the UK asserted that Russian responsibility is “highly likely,” most members of the UN Security Council are less confident and, at a March 14 emergency meeting called by the UK, requested that the OPCW conduct an independent investigation.

The UK notified the OPCW Technical Secretariat of the attack on March 8 and OPCW experts subsequently were deployed to the UK to collect samples. The results of the analysis, which will not assign blame, could come by mid-April at the earliest, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said at a briefing at the UN on March 20.

The Soviet Union developed Novichok secretly in the 1970s and 1980s, after which Russia inherited the program. Its existence was publicly revealed only when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov leaked the project to the press in the 1990s. Novichok reportedly is more lethal than known nerve agents sarin and VX.

The March 4 attack would constitute its first known use, although some chemical weapons experts told The New York Times that the agent could have been used in assassinations in the past but not recognized.

Novichok affects victims through skin exposure or inhalation. Like other nerve agents, Novichok exposure inhibits certain neurotransmitters that relay messages to nerves, eventually resulting in muscle spasms, organ failure, and death from suffocation or heart failure.

The OPCW, the implementing body of the CWC, announced that Russia destroyed its entire declared chemical weapons arsenal in September 2017. Russia did not declare Novichok agents as part of its chemical weapons arsenal when it joined the convention. Vassily Nebenzia, Russian permanent representative to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council on March 14 denied that Russia possesses any Novichok agent.

If Russia is confirmed as responsible, it would mean that Russia not only failed to declare its entire arsenal to the OPCW but also that it retained a part of its arsenal after the OPCW verified that it had destroyed it. That would constitute a “major case of non-compliance with the treaty that would need to be remedied in short order to maintain confidence in the efficacy of the treaty and the OPCW,” Gregory Koblentz, director of the Biodefense Graduate Program in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, told Arms Control Today in a March 16 email.

In a March 12 address to Parliament, May urged Russia to disclose its Novichok program to the OPCW in order to return to compliance with the CWC. Russia also would need to allow the OPCW to monitor the destruction of any remaining chemical weapons stocks or provide “credible evidence” of chemical weapons and production facilities destruction to the OPCW, Koblentz said.

At a March 14 meeting of the UN Security Council, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, demanded that the body “take immediate, concrete measures” to address Russian noncompliance, although council action may be challenging given Russia’s veto power.

Investigations could be mandated instead through the secretary-general’s mechanism, said Andrew Weber, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, in a March 15 email to Arms Control Today.

The use of Novichok in the UK occurred as the norm against chemical weapons use may be eroding globally due to ongoing use of chemical weapons by Syria, a CWC state-party, and North Korea’s use of VX to assassinate Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia last year.

To prevent norm erosion, chemical weapons users must be held to account, Weber and Koblentz said. Koblentz pointed to the International Partnership Against the Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, launched in Paris in January, as a useful tool for “marshaling international support to punish and prosecute perpetrators” of chemical weapons attacks. Although the initiative was launched largely in response to chemical weapons use in Syria, its work applies to chemical weapons use globally. (See ACT, March 2018.)

“The use of chemical weapons anywhere erodes the norm everywhere,” said Koblentz.

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

U.S. Missile Defense Plan Delayed

The planned opening of a key U.S.-built missile interceptor site in Poland by the end of this year is being delayed, a Pentagon official told Congress on March 22. In written testimony for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on missile defense policy, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said that “delays due to an unsatisfactory rate of construction progress at the Aegis Ashore site in Poland will push” the opening of the site from the end of this year to 2020.

The site is part of the third phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the U.S. contribution to NATO’s missile defense system, and is designed to protect Europe against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Iran. Construction on the site in Redzikowo, Poland, began in June 2016. Once completed, it will include a SPY-1 radar and use the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB missile and the more advanced SM-3 Block IIA missile. The site is expected to provide protection for all of Europe against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Russia has long opposed the planned construction of the Polish site and claims that NATO missile defense plans are aimed at undermining Moscow’s nuclear deterrent.

The first phase of the phased adaptive approach became operational in 2012, comprised of radar units in Turkey, Aegis missile defense destroyers home-ported in Spain, and a command-and-control center in Germany. The second phase, the Aegis Ashore site in Romania, came online in 2016. (See ACT, June 2016.)

Meanwhile, John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said at the same hearing that the Pentagon’s broad missile defense review will be completed in “the next couple of months,” but would not commit to a firm date. The review formally began a year ago. (See ACT, May 2017.) Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters in December that the review would be released alongside the Nuclear Posture Review report in February.—RYAN FEDASIUK AND KINGSTON REIF

Israel Confirms Syria Reactor Strike

Israel Confirms Syria Reactor Strike

Israel confirmed it conducted the 2007 bombing of a partially completed reactor in Syria that likely was part of an illicit nuclear weapons program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on March 21 that Israel “prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability” and that Israeli policy to prevent “enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons” remains consistent.

This image provided by the Israeli government in March reportedly shows the suspected Syrian nuclear reactor being bombed in 2007. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)It was generally accepted that Israel was behind the September 2007 airstrike on the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour, but Israel did not publicly acknowledge its role until March 21, when it declassified documents on the attack. Previously, Israeli censors blocked journalists from publishing reports tying the Israeli government to the attack, although foreign media outlets and officials have cited Israel since it occurred in 2007. (See ACT, October 2008.)

It is unclear why the Israeli government decided to acknowledge the attack now, although the timing may be tied to the movement by U.S. President Donald Trump toward abandoning the Iran nuclear accord, as advocated by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in 2008 that Syria was constructing the reactor with North Korean assistance, possibly for a nuclear weapons program, in violation of its international legal commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Syria did not declare the reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which found the country in noncompliance with its safeguards commitments in 2011 after Syria refused to cooperate with the agency’s investigation. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)—KELSEY DAVENPORT

China, France, U.S. Reject UN Disarmament Push

China, France, U.S. Reject UN Disarmament Push

UN Secretary-General António Guterres drew criticism from nuclear powers after saying that he will launch a disarmament initiative. In a Feb. 26 speech to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Guterres asserted that much work remains to fulfill the first resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1946, which encouraged the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Further, he said work remains to be done to counter the erosion of the norms against chemical weapons use and nuclear testing. “In the face of this deterioration, the international community must urgently rebuild a common vision on disarmament and arms control,” he asserted.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Feb. 7 that disarmament was only an “aspirational goal” and that the United States does not believe “that it’s time for bold initiatives, particularly in the area of nuclear weapons.” Nuclear disarmament in the near term is unrealistic, Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the CD, said in an address to that body following Guterres’ speech. Chinese and French ambassadors concurred. Alice Guitton, French permanent representative to the CD, said that disarmament must be built on patience, perseverance, and realism. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, has been gathering input from UN member states and civil society organizations on the structure of the initiative before an expected launch in May.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

UK Debates Plans for Euratom Exit

UK Debates Plans for Euratom Exit

A vote by the House of Lords set back UK efforts to replace nuclear arrangements provided by a treaty from which London will withdraw as part of Brexit. The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union includes withdrawing from Euratom, a body established by a 1957 treaty to coordinate civil nuclear research and power and conduct safeguards.

The UK will need to reach new bilateral cooperation agreements and revise its nuclear safeguards to replace Euratom measures by March 2019. (See ACT, July/August 2017.) However, the House of Lords on March 20 rejected the government’s plan by a 265-194 vote, with members expressing concern that it did not provide enough assurance that the importation of nuclear materials for civilian applications would not be interrupted.

A Jan. 29 report from a House of Lords subcommittee concluded that failure to replace the Euratom provisions could “result in the UK being unable to import nuclear materials and have severe consequences for the UK's energy security.” The report recommended that the government prioritize reaching a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is necessary for new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements. The report emphasized the importance of reaching new agreements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States to ensure that nuclear supply chains can be maintained.

Members also raised the issue of continued UK participation in research and development projects supported by Euratom and recommended that the government look into ensuring the continued viability of research projects in the UK financed in part by Euratom.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles Headed to Ukraine

U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles Headed to Ukraine

The Trump administration plans to sell 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, providing the government with a powerful new weapon to use against Russian-backed separatists. The proposed sale announced on March 1, which includes 37 launch units, is valued at $47 million. The shoulder-fired missiles are presented as a “defensive” weapon intended to deter or help thwart any territorial advances by separatists, although Russian media said the weapons will add to the bloodshed in Ukraine.

Previously, the United States has helped provide small arms and support equipment and training. Ukrainian officials and supporters in the U.S. Congress have been pressing for the United States to provide more in the way of “defensive” weaponry. The Obama administration had been wary of putting more weaponry into an ongoing conflict. Congress is unlikely to block the sale during the 30-day review period. The missiles could begin arriving in Ukraine as soon as April.—TERRY ATLAS

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