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Official: Human Rights Abuses Now a Factor In US Weapon Export Decisions

Apr. 25, 2014 - 01:54PM   |  
By MALLORY BLACK Medill News Service   |   Comments
Gregory M. Kausner, deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security and security assistance, said on Wednesday that the updated Conventional Arms Transfer Policy serves as a framework for weapons and defense articles sales that better reflect the realities of today's issues of regional instability, such as in Russia and Ukraine.
Gregory M. Kausner, deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security and security assistance, said on Wednesday that the updated Conventional Arms Transfer Policy serves as a framework for weapons and defense articles sales that better reflect the realities of today's issues of regional instability, such as in Russia and Ukraine. (Medill News Service / Mallory Black)
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WASHINGTON — In the wake of the US suspension on arms and defense exports to Russia, a State Department official said Washington’s classified Conventional Arms Transfer Policy has been updated to make clear that the US will not transfer arms, equipment or training to countries that commit genocide, crimes against humanity or violate international humanitarian law.

The policy serves as a framework, not a formula, to guide US decision-making on which defense systems and arms exports will go to which countries and under what conditions, said Gregory Kausner, deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security and security assistance.

Originally written in 1995 during the Clinton administration, the arms transfer policy is now a better reflection of the realities of today’s national security issues, especially in places of regional instability, Kausner said, adding that consideration of human rights abuses was a key addition to the policy.

“With the globalization of commerce and the interconnected nature of economies and people, our security is now linked to more places, countries and regions than ever before,” Kausner said. “Arms in the wrong hands can contribute to human rights violations.”

On Monday the White House announced the release of a $50 million aid package to Ukraine to help establish security and stability in a country nervous about the intentions of its Russian neighbor.

The money also will go to support economic and governance reform in Ukraine. About $8 million will be used to provide the Ukrainian armed forces with bomb disposal equipment and hand-held radios, as well as to supply the country’s border guard service with vehicles, non-lethal tactical gear, and engineering and communications equipment.

On March 1, the Commerce Department announced its Bureau of Industry and Security would hold back licenses for “dual-use” exports, or items that may also have military applications, to the Russian Federation. The State Department followed suit and halted licensing for defense articles and services exports to Russia on March 27.

Kausner, a former staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the State Department acknowledges the risks that come with weapons and defense sales to other countries. But he said it is important to be transparent with the American people about what the government is doing in efforts to “establish a foundation for international norms.”

Kausner spoke Wednesday at the non-partisan International Institute for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based think tank. ■

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