ATT Expert Group virtual meeting no. 10 – key takeaways

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 marked a dramatic escalation of the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine ongoing since 2014. In addition to the loss of life and destruction of infrastructure inside Ukraine, the war poses a significant threat to the security and stability of the European continent and beyond. In response, Western governments have imposed a slew of sanctions against the Russian state, against individual state actors, and against wealthy supporters of the Putin regime. In addition, European countries have pledged or provided hundreds of millions of Euros worth of military equipment to the government of Ukraine. On the other hand, the invading Russian forces’ egregious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Ukraine have, for many, rendered impossible the supply of arms to Putin’s military. Indeed, this has prompted the EU to close loopholes in its pre-existing arms embargo on Russia and elsewhere, while Russian actions have received overt political or military support from only a few countries.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine present a fundamental challenge to the rules-based international system, of which the ATT is an important component. As such, it is difficult to conceive of a situation in which arms transfers to Russia could be considered to be compliant with the ATT or with other international legal obligations, and indeed as a rule ATT States Parties appear unwilling to lend materiel support to the Russian invasion. However, a number of ATT States Parties are known to be supplying conventional arms to Ukraine, raising questions about the nature and extent of the risk assessments that have preceded the decisions to authorise these transfers.

Against this background, the tenth virtual meeting of the ATT Expert Group explored and discussed the potential challenges to the ATT that arise from the Ukraine war and considered the steps that could and should be taken to ensure that any arms transfers into the conflict are compliant with the spirit and letter of the Treaty. This topic triggered significant engagement from both state and civil society representatives, who benefitted from the space to debate and discuss arms transfers in light of this new context. This short briefing provides an overview of key takeaways from discussions.

Find out more about the work of the ATT Expert Group.

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