US may transfer weapons seized near Yemen to Ukraine

15 February, 06:41 AM
Military assistance to Ukraine (Photo:Air Force Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez / US Department of Defense)

Military assistance to Ukraine (Photo:Air Force Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez / US Department of Defense)

After seizing more than 5,000 assault rifles, 1.6 million rounds of small arms ammo, a small number of anti-tank missiles, and more than 7,000 proximity mines off the coast of Yemen from weapon smugglers, the United States is considering sending the weapons cache to Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 14.

The WSJ notes that this unusual move will open up a new source of firepower that Washington and its allies can tap into as they struggle to meet Ukraine's need for military support. On Feb. 14, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the war in Ukraine consumes a lot of ammunition and depletes allies' stocks.

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“The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” Stoltenberg said.

“This puts our defense industries under strain.”

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden must find a legal justification for withdrawing weapons from one conflict and transferring them to another. The UN weapons embargo requires the US and its allies to destroy, store, or deprive seized weapons. White House lawyers are considering whether the resolution creates some room for maneuver to transfer arms to Ukraine.

“It’s a message to take weapons meant to arm Iran’s proxies and flip them to achieve our priorities in Ukraine, where Iran is providing arms to Russia,” said one U.S. official.

Usually, the weapons are seized and destroyed by the United States and its allies, who enforce the UN arms embargo on Yemen. But U.S. officials said the global effort to provide Ukraine with arms has sparked discussion about sending confiscated military supplies to Kyiv.

The U.S. military began considering the idea late last year, after the U.S. Navy seized a million rounds of ammunition aboard a fishing boat en route from Iran to Yemen, WSJ source said.

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