CBS Pulls Fatally Flawed Documentary “Arming Ukraine” From Circulation

Source: RedState

Last week, CBS News hit social media with a promotional blitz for a documentary called “Army Ukraine.” The thrust of the documentary, according to the promos, was that only 30% of the US weapons sent to Ukraine ever made it to the Ukrainian Army.

Russian media and its sympathizers immediately championed the documentary in the West. This is how Russia Today (RT) described it:

With the US and its allies pledging unprecedented levels of military support to Ukraine, a recent CBS News report suggested that only around 30% of the weapons sent by the West actually make it to the front lines. The report adds to ongoing rumors of waste, corruption, and black market profiteering.

The US has approved more than $54 billion of economic and military aid to Ukraine since February, while the UK has committed nearly $3 billion in military aid alone, and the EU has spent another $2.5 billion on arms for Kiev. An entire spectrum of equipment, from rifles and grenades to anti-tank missiles and multiple launch rocket systems have left the West’s armories for Ukraine, with most entering the country through Poland.

And some people who should know better, who seem to be reflexively pro-Russia because a lot of progressives are supporting Ukraine, went along for the ride.

Read more at CBS News Tosses Ukraine Under the Bus.

Now CBS has pulled the documentary.

If you try to view it, this is what you get.

Pro-Russian trolls like Michael Tracey cried foul.

Unlike many commenting on the documentary, I reviewed and took notes on it as I’d planned to write on it this week. I was first aware that the piece had been pulled when the link I’d embedded to the documentary in this story returned a 404 yesterday.

The center of the documentary is Jonas Ohman, who runs a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Blue Yellow. It has been collecting/purchasing, and distributing non-lethal aid to a “patchwork of improvised military units,” his words, not mine, since 2014. Ohman says his organization only moves non-lethal aid, and he doesn’t supply regular Ukrainian forces.

The documentary is filmed in late-April-to-mid-May. The leaves on trees are just forming, and no crops are growing in the fields. So it was filmed before the first large tranches of US military aid started arriving.

At no point in the video does anyone claim that only 30% of Western weapons make it to military units. The 30% quote doesn’t appear in the CBS article on the documentary, and RT only mentions it when it quotes the CBS promo. The 30% number refers to a statement made by Ohman on his estimate of the percentage of non-lethal aid provided by his NGO that reaches the front lines. The still image below shows when this happens. Strangely, no follow-up question asks why this is so and where the other 70% ends up, though, were I forced to guess, I’d say that part of the problem is that Blue Yellow doesn’t deliver supplies to units; they deliver them to civilian cut-outs who make the final delivery (this was at 6:50 into the documentary).

Blue Yellow has responded to the CBS documentary.

At no point in the documentary is anyone involved in weapons transfers interviewed. However, they do manage to interview Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Adviser for Amnesty International, of all things.

In short, the documentary was about how one specific NGO obtains and distributes non-lethal military gear (helmets, body armor, cars, drones, optics) to provisional Ukrainian military units. It is not about weapons, ammunition, or even the Ukrainian military. Why it was promoted in the way it was is a question for CBS to answer.

The episode does raise a fair question. How well do donor countries track the military aid they provide to Ukraine? As the Amnesty International person accurately points out, the weapon producer has responsibility for their weapons. That is how Germany has been able to restrict users of the Leopard 2 main battle tank from transferring them to Ukraine. That said, a pretty intense war is being waged, and large amounts of weaponry are captured, lost, and abandoned daily. Moreover, these weapons are at least as much Russia’s property as Ukraine’s.

In July, Ukraine invited donor nations to set up processes to ensure their weaponry was making its way to the Ukrainian Army and created a commission to monitor weapons transfers. The US has a team headed by Brigadier General Garrick Harmon commanding the US Army Security Assistance Command in Ukraine. Weapons and aid are being managed according to NATO’s LOGFAS system.

Europol has investigated the black marketing of arms from Ukraine and said they have found signs of weapons smuggling from Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government is fully cooperating. RT (lolgf) has carried out an “investigation” of arms on the “dark web.” No weapons changed hand, and no evidence presented that they had been diverted from supply channels and not abandoned or captured.

The amount of equipment flowing into a war zone is an obvious target for theft. In France in 1945 and 1946, entire US trains of supplies and munitions were hijacked and sold on the black market. Systems must be put in place to ensure that lethal aid, in particular, is accounted for. The CBS documentary did nothing to move that cause forward and significantly damaged it in the process.