Russia's foreign ministry has condemned Joe Biden’s plan to compensate the release by Ecuador of Soviet-era weapons, which would then be sent to Ukraine, in exchange for new US military equipment worth $200 million.
“Such a reckless decision was taken by the Ecuadorian side under serious pressure from outside interested parties,” spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said in comments reported by Reuters.
“Our partners are well aware of the provisions of the contracts, which include an obligation to use the supplied equipment for the stated purposes and not to transfer it to a third party without obtaining the relevant agreement of the Russian side,” she added.
Authorities in Ecuador said that they believed they were within their rights to do so and hoped to finalize the arrangement soon.
An Ecuadorian government spokesperson said that the equipment being considered included rocket launchers, anti-aircraft systems and transport helicopters along with reports that some equipment had been shipped on an Antonov An-124 airlifter on Jan. 25.
According to a TASS report in the middle of last month a US spokesperson had indicated that several central Latin American countries including Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, who also possess Russian-made weapons, have expressed interest in participating in a similar scheme to transfer weapons to Ukraine.
Germany was the first to come up with the “Ringtausch circular swap” concept, at the end of 2022. Berlin encouraged other countries to send their Soviet tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), which it assessed could be most easily assimilated by Kyiv’s forces, in exchange for German armaments.
Four countries, Czechia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia took advantage of the offer exchanging T-72 and M-55S tanks, and BMP-1 IFVs in exchange for Leopard 2 tanks, Marder IFVs, engineering vehicles and modern trucks.
Forbes reported on Wednesday that Washington and Athens were in discussions to implement a possibly even more ingenious version of the “circular swap” process.
According to the Greek media outlet Kathimerini, the United States would gift surplus weapons to Greece, including 60 Bradley M-2 IFVs, patrol boats and C-130 aircraft as long as Greece donates more of its own surplus weapons to Ukraine.
This would be made under EDA - the “excess defense articles law,” that allows the US president to declare up to $500 million worth of military equipment as no longer needed, assign it a value (which can be zero) and give it away as long as the recipient pays transportation costs.
The EDA offerings would sweeten the $8.6 billion sale 40 F-35 stealth fighters to Greece. While making the offer Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State said: “We continue to be interested in the defense capabilities that Greece could transfer or sell to Ukraine.”
Greece operates, or holds in storage, an array of Soviet and US weaponry that would be of immediate value to the Ukrainian military, including, S-300, Hawk, Tor and Osa air-defense systems with ammunition.
According to Forbes, EDA is just one of several legal mechanisms available to the White House that can free up older weapons for onward transfer to Ukraine. And while Biden could send excess defense articles directly to Ukraine, sending EDA through third party nations as ring trades could give him additional domestic and international political leverage in ring trades.
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