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CAB039 / Russia / STATUS ON WEAPONS TRAFFICKING IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE

STATUS ON WEAPONS TRAFFICKING IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Post is an update on the arms trafficking situation in Russia and Ukraine. END SUMMARY.

UKRAINE
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¶2. (S) Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world after the Russian Federation and the United States. In addition to 130 SS-19 and 46 SS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and 25 Tu-95 and 19 Tu-160 strategic bombers with air-launched cruise missiles and an estimated 1,900 strategic warheads, Ukraine’s arsenal contained around 2,275 tactical nuclear weapons located on its territory.

¶3. (S) Ukraine is home to an estimated ten million state- and civilian-owned firearms, yet lacks cohesive gun laws. The nation inherited vast quantities of Soviet-era small arms and ammunition, and is a known source of weapons to regions of conflict and human rights abuse. Official secrecy makes allegations of widespread arms trafficking, state-sanctioned or otherwise, nearly impossible to track. Ukraine has yet to sign or ratify the UN Firearms Protocol.

RUSSIAN
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¶4. (S/NF) Russia possesses the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the world. The country declared an arsenal of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons in 1997, of which only 48% have been destroyed. The Federation of American Scientists, an organization which assesses nuclear weapon stockpiles, claims that Russia has 4,650 active nuclear warheads, while the U.S. has 2,468. (COMMENT: Based on intel from confidential sources, this offices believes that the estimates of actual Russian warheads are significantly higher and estimates of destroyed warheads are significantly lower. END COMMENT.)

¶5. (S) In addition to warheads, Russia is expected to be in possession of a series of nerve agents developed in the 1970s and 1980s and which are allegedly much more active than VX (one of the USA’s most formidable nerve agents). The agents are termed Novichok (Newcomer) agents.

¶6. (S) Russia is the largest legal and illegal exporter of firearms in the world. Due to a massive stockpile of guns from the Cold War and a huge ongoing production of weapons and ammunition, Russia is thought to have more guns per person than any other country, including the US. Estimates suggest an average of 11.7 guns per person.

¶7. (S/NF) Criminal organizations have taken significant advantage of deep corruption in political and military sectors, trafficking upwards of seven hundred and fifty hundred million USD in small arms and ammunition a year. In addition, not only are most Russian gun exporting laws too vague to be effective, but in many cases the Russian government offers gun and ammunition manufacturers huge tax incentives and subsidies.

ARMS TRAFFICKING
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¶8. (C) In spite of UN pressure for full denuclearization, more than 65% of warheads in Ukraine and Russia have gone missing due to outdated tracking systems, massive corruption, change of government officials, lack of proper paperwork, and a variety of other reasons.

¶9. (C) According to last year’s annual report from the International Firearms Anti-Trafficking Organization (IFATO), nearly 90% of the weapons used in domestic conflicts throughout Africa, Eastern Europe, Mexico, and the Middle East originated from Ukraine and Russia.

COMMENT
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¶10. (C) In spite of recent public promises by Russian President Volodin to the US and UN, it appears little is being done to curb the massive illegal weapons exporting from Russia and Ukraine. In fact, it seems entirely possible that Russia and Ukraine would be loath to lose the massive income from black market weapons trade (similar to the situation we saw in Afghanistan with heroin trafficking, but on a much larger scale). As of now, the UN lacks the financial or political influence necessary to pressure Russia or Ukraine into amending the current weapons trafficking situation. END COMMENT.

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