Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.
The same way sanctions are not working and are backfiring, Western massive arms transfers to Kiev have been a disaster, from anyone’s perspective. In an interview to US “National Defense”, Ukrainian Army Brigadier General Volodymyr Karpenko has admitted his country lost almost 50% of all weaponry and equipment it received. Some of it got destroyed, but that is not the whole story.
Russian Channel One reported on how the Ukrainian military abandons weapons as they retreat. The abandoned US-made Javelins and German anti-tank mines were filmed. Moreover, weaponry sent to Ukraine is ending up in black markets and is being sold in the so-called darknet and deep web platforms. There, one can buy Javellin anti-tank systems for about $ 30,000 or British NLAW systems for half the price. There is a demand for that, of course. Terrorists and criminal gangs are the buyers.
This situation has alarmed the Interpol and other international and European bodies. Already on May 28, Europol director Catherine De Bolle voiced her concerns about the war increasing the inpourring of arms into the continent’s black markets. Such weapons could reach political players in the Middle East involved in local conflicts, and spread all over the region, even reaching currently unstable locations such as Somali, Sudan, Yemen, and Egypt. Arms shipments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania are in fact being investigated and such can aggravate the security problem in the Balkans – and in the Sahel also.
The so-called Islamic State or ISIS, the terrorist organization also known as the Daesh, is reorganizing itself this time in the Sahel, according to Victoria Nuland herself (the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs), who has stated so in May. There are reports that criminal groups in Albania and Kosovo are selling arms to ISIS.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated on June 9 that “arms shipment to Ukraine will lead to the emergence of an arms black market, especially in Western Europe.” Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock has voiced similar concerns about Africa and the Balkans becoming the destination of Western arms supplied to Kiev, as reported by Le Figaro news. He said: “The wide availability of weapons during the current conflict will lead to the proliferation of illicit weapons in the post-conflict phase.” Actually, this is already happening, as seen in the dark web.
It is a well known fact that the Ukrainian armed forces are incredibly corrupt. Ukraine has long been believed to be one of the major arms trafficking markets in Europe. It has also emerged as an import transit destination for drugs such as heroin. It has the third highest criminality score of 33 countries in Europe. In today’s world, illict trade plays a major role in the financing of terrorist and extremist networks globally.
In November last year a club in Kiev was the target of a homophobic terrorist attack. It was stormed by masked men and later an explosive device was thrown at the building. Centuria, a Ukrainian paramilitary group with links to the Azov Regiment (formerly known as the Azov Battalion) seems to be behind the crime. No one was killed, but this ultra-nationalist group already patrols Ukraine’s cities. With the war, the migration crisis and the black market, Europe could see armed groups and terrorist attacks such as these spreading to its capitals.
In 2019 a senior Daesh leader, Al-Bara Shishani, was arrested in Ukraine and Azov leaders are known to sympathize with the group, even adopting some of its tactics. As early as 2015, collaboration between Islamic radicals and Ukrainian militias has been reported.
In December 2021, before the current crisis, I wrote that should a war ensue, Ukraine would be defeated by Russia (for a number of reasons), but far-right Ukrainian groups – aided and armed by NATO and possibly by Turkish ultra-nationalist networks – could remain active in sabotage and terrorism operations, thus turning the “post-conflict” phase into a long nightmarish “frozen conflict” scenario of counter-insurgency and irregular warfare.
Amid the humanitarian catastrophe, I wrote, the European continent should expect an increase in terrorism and crime amid an increasing migration crisis. Of course most of the refugees are law-abiding families escaping the tragedy of war, but paramilitary men and extremists can make their way into Western Europe too – and Ukrainian Neo-Nazism has been largely white-washed. European far-right militias already cooperate with Ukraine’s nationalists, and the country is already a new hub for far-right activity. Isaac Kfir, a Charles Sturt University Professor and part of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law advisory board, has warned that Ukraine has the potential to become “the Syria of the extreme right”.
In the same way US-led Western policies – directly or indirectly – aided both the Al-Qaeda and the Daesh, there is every reason to believe that in a few years Europe will be haunted by a new kind of far-right terror reminiscent of the infamous Gladio Operation, when Washington funded European far-right groups as a secret anti-Soviet army during the Cold War.
One can only wonder why European leaders would be so ready to accept these risks. This is the true reason countries such as Germany, Greece, Hungary, and even Israel have at times been reluctant to further arm Kiev or to allow weapons transit. It appears that from an American perspective Europe itself is but another US proxy.