Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC open debate "Risks stemming from violations of the agreements regulating the export of weapons and military equipment
Issues of control over the transfer of conventional arms and military equipment have become especially relevant recently. Risks that arise when such arms and equipment spread uncontrollably and fall in the hands of criminals and terrorists via black markets are growing exponentially. We believe this debate provides a good opportunity to hold a discussion with a wide range of member states on the effective regional and international treaties in this area, and also the threats that stem from violations of such agreements.
Russia pays priority attention to issues relating to control of transfer of weapons and military equipment (WME), consolidates relevant national legislation in a consistent manner, and is ready to share expertise in this area. We support such initiatives in Africa, Latin America, and other regions where people have firsthand knowledge of the devastating consequences of illegal arms transfer. We note that some regional associations adopt concrete obligations in this area, in particular we note the 2008 Common Position of the European Union that established basic rules for EU members in the area of control of exports of military technology and equipment. It was adopted under Title 5 of the 1992 European Union Agreement, and has been endorsed by a decision of the European Council, meaning the EU member states must abide by it whenever they express a position or take action.
Russia also contributes meaningfully to the work of the existing international mechanisms in the UN framework. In particular, we view the UN Register of Conventional Arms as a universal tool to promote transparency. We submit data to the Register on a regular basis, and such imperative is enshrined in the Russian national legislation. We are convinced that the most important thing we need to do to achieve the goals of the Register is to make it more universal, i.e. to ensure that more countries submit to the Register their regular annual national reports on export/import of arms.
We also pay specific attention to implementing the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. We consistently propose a number of concrete measures that may help the practical implementation of joint efforts aimed at prevention of illegal SALW transfer. They are as follows, introducing a universal ban on transfer of all types of SALW to actors that are not authorized by the governments of recipient-countries; strict regulation and direct state-executed control of brokerage activity related to arms export throughout the area of this state’s jurisdiction, and maximum limitation of the number of brokers; ban on re-export or subsequent transfers of the imported SALW without written consent of the initial exporter state, i.e. making arms exports conditional on the presence of end-user certificate; prevention of manufacturing of SALW on an expired license or without a license issued by the country that owns the production technology.
Speaking of the international Arms Trade Treaty, we must still say that the standards that it envisages are much lower than in Russia. The ATT does not provide for concrete bans on unlicensed production of weapons and transfer to non-state actors, the Treaty also lacks provisions, according to which WME can only be re-exported given consent of the initial exporter state. At the same time, we continue to monitor the implementation of the ATT and believe it important that all signatories must implement the obligations that they took upon.
During discussions at specialized platforms, we point out consistently that all member states must remain focused on countering the uncontrolled spread of weapons and military equipment. In the absence of relevant agreements, quite often it may turn out impossible to track and keep control of transfers of WME, which results in countries or entire regions being flooded with illegal arms and triggers an increase in crime and violence.
We are convinced that when addressing issues related to control of military purpose products within the scope of its mandate, the Security Council must not duplicate the functions of the General Assembly, where related global measures in this area are discussed. However the Council must respond to threats to the international peace and security that arise when countries step back on their previous obligations regarding WME transfers and violate agreements that are already in effect.
The world has had to deal with consequences of such irresponsible policies more than once. Guided by their geopolitical ambition, some states carried out large-scale deliveries of arms and ammunition to various regions, including the Near and Middle East, Balkans, and North Africa. Later, when faced with bitter experience of radicalization of the so-called opposition forces whom they supported, as well as subsequent uncontrolled spread of WME worldwide, Western states were consistently promoting the concept of “responsible behavior” and strengthening control over the trafficking in arms. However the crisis in Ukraine that they had provoked underscored how insincere their claims in support of international efforts to counter the uncontrolled WME spread actually were.
Russia repeatedly called meetings of the Security Council to address the dangerous consequences of "pumping up" the Kiev regime with weapons, which clearly illustrate the risks of violating the obligations in the area of WME control. Regardless of the approaches of certain countries to the developments in Ukraine, these risks are quite real and can apply to any other region. It is the duty of the Security Council to respond to them and discuss, including jointly with other member states, possible measures to stop such risks.
First among such risks we would name the erosion of international law in the area of WME transfer. Recurrent violations of bilateral agreements to include a ban on re-export or production with a view to export to third countries without a permit from the state who is the initial supplier of weapons or technology runs counter to the fundamental practices in the area of WME transfer. Discreet arms deliveries to certain regions via third countries further distort the picture of arms flows worldwide and impede transparency in this area. Unfortunately, Western states not only fail to oppose such violations, but actually encourage them. The United States and its allies exert pressure on third countries, demanding that they violate such agreements with Russia and other countries in the interests of enhancing arms deliveries to Kiev. On 30 November 2022, US Secretary of State A.Blinken stated openly that Soviet-designed combat systems would be produced again at military enterprises in Eastern Europe, even though bilateral agreements with those countries did not permit transfers of manufactured products unless there was a written consent of the USSR or Russia as its continuator state. So such action constitutes a direct violation of the fundamental norms in the area of control of conventional arms regardless of the goals behind this.
It is no coincidence that the requirement to provide end-user certificates for WME transfers has become a generally recognized international practice. When this requirement is ignored, arms often land in black markets and end up in the hands of organized crime. Uncontrolled arms transfers have another dangerous consequence – there are risks that such weapons may fall in the hands of terrorists. It is especially so in the case of sensitive weapons and military equipment, such as man-portable air defense systems and anti-tank systems, which pose colossal risks to international civil aviation and rail transport.
May I remind that signatories of the ATT and EU countries adopted an obligation to prevent the arms that they transfer from being use to undermine the global peace and stability, violate international humanitarian law, commit acts of violence, escalate conflicts, carry out repressions and genocide, etc. When weapons get delivered to a regime that has been using it for years against civilians and civilian infrastructure, there is no more talk about observing such agreements. Such neglect of the obligations that were once taken upon, to say nothing of the moral side of the issue, creates significant risks that arms may also be delivered uncontrollably to other conflict zones, despite the threat of further escalation. At the same time, baseless allegations that some countries deliver weapons and military equipment to Russia in violation of relevant UNSC resolutions have not received any confirmation and were repeatedly refuted.
An irresponsible approach to issues related to deliveries of weapons and military equipment creates one more unobvious yet very serious risk – “coalescence” of military industries and national governments. Therefore, military industries of Western states are not interested in termination of conflicts, and their governments adopt similar positions.
Many other threats to peace and security also stem from the deviation from the principle of enhancing control of WME transfers. Implications of such threats are more than just serious. We do hope that during this open debate member states will address such threats that exist in various regions of the globe and share their expertise, ideas and initiatives on how to curb such risks.
Right of reply:
I would like to make a further statement in my national capacity of a representative of the Russian Federation. I have to take the floor again to respond to the statements made by some delegates today who articulated baseless allegations against my country.
We convene this debate not because we want to talk about the situation in Ukraine and the danger of the ongoing process when Ukraine is being pumped up with weapons. The latter we do on a regular basis, while providing relevant facts. Our plan for today was to initiate a depoliticized and targeted discussion of member states on concrete risks stemming from violations of agreements regulating the exports of weapons and military equipment. Obviously, such risks do exist and it is not our fault that Western approaches to the Ukrainian crisis clearly demonstrate them. We already underscored that all allegations about WME being delivered to Russia in violation of relevant UNSC resolutions are baseless, unlike the concrete cases of violations of the effective agreements by Western states. Neither Kiev nor its Western sponsors have offered us anything but some speculations in the “highly likely” spirit. Same can be said about the specialized mechanisms that were established to support the work of UNSC Committee 1718 on the DPRK, who found no grounds to confirm the accusations that were made today. Nevertheless, some Western states continue to make such allegations, of which we could make sure today. Apparently, Washington and its satellites were not able to come up with some other way to conceal their role in provoking and fueling the Ukrainian crisis.
Let me give you concrete – only fact-based – cases of Western countries violating their prior obligations in the context of Ukraine. Russia has long been stressing that “pumping up” of the Kiev regime with weapons would bring those weapons in black markets and also in the hands of organized crime and terrorists. Now this can be confirmed by facts. Weapons that Western states delivered to Ukraine started to surface in various European states, where it adds to the arsenals of organized crime, a fact confirmed by European police officers. Such weapons also spread throughout the world, in particular, it finds its way to the militants in Africa. All of us heard African leaders say so.
ATT signatories and EU states completely disregard their obligations when it comes to arms deliveries to Kiev, which has been using it for years to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in Donbas.
Kiev is being pumped up with weapons, and this process does not stop. Over the past year, the joint contribution of NATO countries stood at $40 billion in direct military assistance. The European Union has contributed $12 billion. This assistance is not only rendered directly, but also under the mask of providing general assistance to Ukraine. Quite noteworthy are the recent words by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, J.Borrell. He admitted that the “European Peace Fund” is used to export weapons to Ukraine, though it clearly violates the founding documents of the EU, obligations in the OSCE framework, and program goals of the Fund itself. What is it if not a straightforward violation of effective obligations? Let alone the fact that it even sounds cynically.
Also, we would like to stress that the issue of arms deliveries to Kiev assumes a strategic dimension, because the classification of weapons and military equipment is expanding constantly. In this particular case, it means that certain states not only violate their obligations, but also set no reasonable limits for themselves despite serious risks of escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. Well, the West is not interested in putting an end to the crisis in Ukraine. They would rather that the crisis continue, which they do not hesitate to say out loud.
When it was about their own interests in various regions of the globe, Western states consistently ignored their own concept of “responsible behavior” that they had taken pains to promote. Examples are abundant. The United States and its allies know perfectly well what dire consequences the usage of projectiles with depleted uranium had during their invasions of Yugoslavia and Iraq, but this never stopped London from announcing a plan to supply such munitions to Kiev.
Transfer of WME to Ukrainian authorities, who are unable to track its further movement, cannot be called a responsible step either. Western states spoke about it themselves and allegedly took measures to enhance control of distribution of their so-called military assistance. However, attempts to initiate an audit through the US Congress to check on the assistance to Kiev, did not receive any support. On 28 February 2023, the Inspector General of the US Department of Defense, R.Storch, had to admit that Washington was receiving reports about the improper use of armaments that were transferred to Kiev. In the meantime, the “grey markets” of weapons are already over-flooded and continue to restock, i.a. by Western-made products that were never used in combat.
We repeatedly spoke of risks of “coalescence” of military industries and national governments. It is an open secret, that the huge funding that is allegedly allocated to assistance for Ukraine, end up in the pockets of Western WME manufacturers, who, by various estimates, whom the conflict in Ukraine boosted profits by nearly 50 %. Lately, even in the US Congress an opinion was expressed (by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman McCaul) that only 20 % of Washington’s financial assistance goes to Kiev, whereas 60 % of the money stays with the US side. Clearly, the fact that governments and arms manufacturers have similar interests leads to a situation when conflicts become protracted artificially, which has a toll on civilians in the first place.
We extend our appreciation to those who approached this discussion responsibly, as becomes members of the UN Security Council. We are also grateful to the states who share the idea that Council can discuss concrete measures to rectify the situation. We hope that other countries will show an equally responsible approach.