Government reverses position on Russian military ‘scrap metal,’ reconsiders shipment to the U.S.

Feb 17, 2024 | 0 comments

In a deal brokered behind the scenes, possibly by the U.S. and Russian ambassadors, Ecuador said Friday it is reconsidering sending Russian military equipment to the U.S. The equipment, that President Daniel Noboa called “scrap metal,” had been donated to Ecuador by the Russian government more than a decade ago. The government communication office confirmed comments by Russian Ambassador to Ecuador Vladimir Sprichan that President Daniel Noboa had “agreed in principle” not to send the equipment out of the country without Russia’s permission.

President Daniel Noboa met Friday with Russian Ambassador to Ecuador Vladimir Sprichan.

In a plan announced in January, Noboa said Ecuador would send the Russian armaments to the U.S. in exchange for $200 million in new equipment to be used in the country’s fight against narco trafficking gangs. Days later, Russia objected, noting the original non-shipment agreement and adding that if the equipment is sent to the U.S. it could be used against Russian troops in Ukraine, a violation of Ecuador’s claim of neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine war. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the shipment to the U.S. “may have negative consequences for future bilateral interaction between Russia and Ecuador.”

Ecuador originally defended the U.S. trade deal, claiming the equipment, much of it from the Soviet era, was “non-operational” and considered scrap metal due to its age and the lack of replacement parts.

On February 4, a Russian agriculture and health agency announced a ban on shipments of bananas to Russia by five exporters. The ban affected almost 7% of Ecuador’s total banana exports and was believed by growers and others to be retaliation for the arms deal with the U.S. Sprichan claims, however, the two issues are not related.

Prior to the announcement that Ecuador might call off the arms shipment, Noboa and Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld met with the U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick, U.S. Anti-Narcotics Bureau chief Rahul Gupta and Russian Ambassador Sprinchan.

Following his meeting with Noboa, Sprinchan said he expected a “satisfactory” resolution of the conflict. ” I believe the Ecuadorian government is committed to not sending weapons into the Ukranian conflict and will act accordingly,” he said. “It understands its position of neutrality and understands the responsibility that goes with it.”

Noboa declined to comment on the meetings with Sprinchan and Fitzpatrick, saying that more information would be provided next week.

Friday night, a government spokesman said that phone conversations between Sprinchan and Fitzpatrick may have played a role in reaching a possible agreement on the arms issue. He added that any agreement Ecuador reaches with Russia will not affect U.S. support and the shipment of military equipment to Ecuador’s armed forces.

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