The US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine, sources tell CNN, a blind spot that's due in large part to the lack of US boots on the ground in the country — and the easy portability of many of the smaller systems now pouring across the border.
It's a conscious risk US President Joe Biden's administration is willing to take.
In the short term, the US sees the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment to be vital to the Ukrainians' ability to hold off Moscow's invasion. A senior defense official said Tuesday that it is "certainly the largest recent supply to a partner country in a conflict." But the risk, both current US officials and defense analysts say, is that in the long term, some of those weapons may wind up in the hands of other militaries and militias that the US did not intend to arm.
"We have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero," said one source briefed on US intelligence. "It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time."
In making the decision to send billions of dollars of weapons and equipment into Ukraine, the Biden administration factored in the risk that some of the shipments may ultimately end up in unexpected places, a defense official said.
But right now, the official said, the administration views a failure to adequately arm Ukraine as a greater risk.
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