Alena Sukharevskaya

The UK continues to export armaments to Russia despite the announced (back in March) suspension of export licenses for components of weapons and dual-purpose products. As it follows from the report published on Wednesday by the Committee of the British Parliament on control over arms exports, in mid-May 285 licenses for delivery of products worth 131, 5mm million pounds (of 224.5 million) were still active.

The Committee found that, despite the tough rhetoric against Russia in connection with the events in the Ukraine, as of May 14, 2014 this year the British government has cancelled only 34 export licenses (this happened back in March).

The decision to cancel all the existing licenses for arms exports to Russia and to refuse from the consideration of any future licenses was announced on March 18 by William Hague, then head of the British Foreign Ministry. However, it turned out that that decision has repressed only those products which, in the opinion of to the UK government, could be used directly against the Ukraine.

According to the report, in March Britain suspended 15 licenses for direct export of arms to Russia, including components for ground, air and naval equipment, technology for detection and neutralization of explosive devices, and software using cryptography. Another 13 revoked licenses were intended for products that could get into Russia via third countries – France, Italy and South Africa. In this group, the export restrictions dealt with components for military aircraft engines, displays for military aircraft equipment and other components for military helicopters.

Finally, six revoked licenses belong to the category of so-called open individual licenses, among which various high-tech components, including "air-to-air rockets". In total, the UK had suspended or revoked licenses for Russia for the total amount of nearly 37 million pounds (63 million), as it follows from the parliamentary report.

The ongoing many-million-worth arms trade is at odds with statements made by British politicians who adhere to the most rigid position on Russia among all EU countries. On Monday (July 21) Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron once again called for the adoption of more stringent sanctions against Moscow, this time because of the Malaysian Boeing crash near Donetsk. In particular, Cameron insists that the governments of other European countries should follow his example and cease arms exports to Russia. "We have already stopped them from the UK", – said the Premier, adding that London has done it unilaterally.

On Monday, John Stanley, Chairman of the Committee of the British Parliament on control over arms exports, who has discovered the discrepancy between the words and actions of the leadership of Great Britain, wrote a letter to the new Minister of foreign Affairs Philip Hammond (holds the post since July, 15, 2014) with the requirement to explain why only 34 out of more than 300 military licenses had been withdrawn by May, and has the situation changed now – especially after the Boeing disaster near Donetsk.

Besides, the MP asks the head of the Foreign Ministry to explain the steps that the UK government intends to take in order to convince other EU and NATO countries to impose similar restrictions on exports to Russia.

In response to the previous letter wrote by Stanley to the ex-Head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs William Hague, the Minister of business and education in the UK Vince Cable answered that as of that time (by May, 14) it had been only Germany in the EU who had suspended the issuance of export licenses for arms and dual-purpose products, the ultimate beneficiary of which is the armed forces of Russia. At the same time, the letter notes that, in accordance with its laws, Germany does not have the right to cancel the already issued licenses. Other members of the EU and NATO have not yet made public statements about the arms trade with Russia, noted Cable, however, on the sidelines, many politicians have told their British colleagues that they are "cautiously" approaching this issue

On Wednesday the report authors also sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Great Britain with the request to make it clear what the government intends to do with the active licenses for arms exports to Russia, as it was announced by a representative of the parliamentary Committee. The answer of David Cameron is still unknown, his press service has failed to provide prompt comments.

Source: RBC daily, July 24, 2014, pp. 1, 2


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