Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Arms Export Violations

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
April 10, 2023


Good morning, colleagues.

First, let me begin by thanking Mozambique for an outstanding presidency in March. I was pleased to be able to participate in the Security Council trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo during your presidency, and we appreciated Mozambique’s deliberate approach to the work of its presidency.

Russia on the other hand began its presidency by trying to justify kidnapping Ukrainian children. Today’s meeting is a thinly veiled effort to portray Russia as a responsible actor on arms control, attempting to obfuscate the reality that it launched an unjustified armed invasion of its neighbor.

Despite the circumstances that bring us here today, I thank the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs for her thoughtful and thorough briefing today.

For over two decades, the United States has assisted other governments in developing and adopting the necessary laws, regulations, and policies to control the import and export of conventional weapons. We do this because we know that transparent laws and regulations allow countries to work together to hinder the illicit proliferation of these weapons.

Our own policy on international arms transfers is laid out in our Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, which was updated earlier this year and is a matter of public record.

Even with strong laws and wise policies in place, there are inherent risks of weapons capture and illicit diversion on the battlefield in any armed conflict. The United States takes these risks very seriously. We assess the risk for potential illicit diversion of weapons when evaluating any proposed defense transfer anywhere in the world and take proactive steps to protect U.S. defense and dual-use technologies and prevent their diversion.

We also carefully assess the risk of battlefield loss, particularly in complex environments. And let us focus on the most conspicuous such environment today, Ukraine.

We must not pretend that the conflict in Ukraine is a matter of weapons export systems. Ukraine was invaded, and it has every right to defend itself – this is reflected in the UN Charter – and the international community has every right to continue its longstanding support to Ukraine’s defense.

This equipment provides important support to Ukraine, and Ukraine has a strong incentive to protect it. The United States continues to work closely with Ukraine to establish and implement procedures to mitigate the risk of illicit diversion of weapons and military equipment.

The Government of Ukraine has committed to appropriately safeguarding and accounting for transferred defense equipment. We welcome the Ukrainian government’s formation of a commission in 2022 to strengthen the monitoring of donated military equipment just this summer.

Russia, on the other hand, has never let facts interfere with its false narratives. In a blatant effort to discredit Ukraine and weaken international support for Ukraine’s self-defense, Russia continues to spread disinformation about diversions.

In fact, the greatest risk of illicit trafficking comes from battlefield capture of weapons by Russia and pro-Russia forces. Russia has proposed that it would supply captured weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine. These statements and actions are dangerous and irresponsible.

Russia has also turned to rogue regimes to try to unlawfully obtain weapons and equipment to support its military operations. In November 2022, the DPRK delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, and we know Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from the DPRK.

Such arms transfers from the DPRK to Russia directly violate Security Council resolutions. These actions, particularly by a permanent member of the Security Council, are deeply disturbing and only fuel Moscow’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Iran has also transferred UAVs to Russia, a fact Iran’s foreign minister acknowledged in public statements on November 5. Russia is using these drones to attack Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Let me state it clearly: Resolution 2231 – specifically, Annex B, Paragraph 4 – prohibits all countries, even Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, from transferring these types of drones from Iran without advance Security Council approval.

The most effective and obvious path towards peace and reducing risk of illicit diversion of arms would be for Russia to end the war that it started and withdraw its forces from all of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. We once again urge Russia to do so, and to do it now.

Thank you.