A new Sky documentary has revealed that British manufactured arms are finding their way into the hands of the Russian military, despite the fact that there has been an arms trade embargo against the Russians since 2014. Sky reports that a recent investigation has discovered military-grade sniper rifles, manufactured by Portsmouth company Accuracy International, are being used by Russian troops in Ukraine.
The assumption is that a 3rd party state, who is not currently subject to an arms embargo and who are able to buy military grade weapons from the UK (such as the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia for example), are then selling UK weapons on to other countries, like Russia.
The report goes on to explain that this has been largely facilitated by weak UK export licensing practices. It describes how, currently, there are two types of arms trade export licenses…
A standard license requires the manufacturer to provide quite a bit of information on whats being sold, including the cost per item, which allows investigators to estimate the quantities being exported.
An open license requires minimal information. These licenses only need the manufacturer to list the type of item and which country its going to.
Open licenses do not require the manufacturer to list the number of units being sold and, as there’s no pricing information required, it’s impossible to even guess at the quantities. In other words, it could be a consignment of 5 or 500,000 sniper rifles, or even more, and you’d have no way of knowing.
The Sky investigation also reveals that 50% of the arms trade revenue that the government receives is through open licensing, which is why the government are unable to provide any data on quantities being exported because they simply do not record this data.
There is also another concern that the Sky documentary does not touch upon. They briefly acknowledged that the UK doesn’t just trade in sniper rifles, it also trades in tear gas and tanks….
..but they don’t mention that the UK also trades in military aircraft, weapons of mass destruction and even nerve gas chemicals, some of which have been deployed by allied forces in Syria, for example.
Not long ago, you used to be able to find images of exploded, British made, shells and canisters in Syria on Google but, lately, these appear to have mysteriously disappeared. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the images we had previously seen had been faked or, at least, could not be authenticated, and perhaps this is why they have been removed.
There have, however, been other recent indicators that suggest there might be other reasons to suspect something isn’t quite right. For instance, there has recently been a pattern of behaviour by the UK and its allies, where they’ve attempted to besmirch and even block international experts and authorities from doing their work or taking legal action against perceived criminal actors. Spotlight recently reported on the UK’s attempt to silence the former director general of the OPCW at a UN Security Council briefing in New York City. In September this year, the US decided it would sanction the International Criminal Court for allegedly targeting Americans. In fact, 6 months earlier, the ICC had decided unanimously to open an investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.
If it is proven that UK manufactured military equipment and weapons have actually found their way into the hands of 3rd party states, like Russia, and if it’s not possible to track how they were able to acquire them, then it would be extremely difficult for organisations such the OPCW or the ICC to prove direct culpability.