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Widespread Corruption in Ukraine Warrants Stricter Oversight

Ukraine ranks dismally low on the corruption perception index. Therefore, the U.S. must implement measures to ensure that aid will reach those deserving in the devastated country.

Truck hauling back with dollar sign on it

According to Transparency International, a global movement working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption, Ukraine ranked #122 on its corruption perception index in 2021. It gives Ukraine the dubious distinction of being the second-most corrupt nation in Europe. Russia, at #136, fared worse.

Ukraine's terrible reputation has been known, especially in Europe, for decades. In 2008, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed Ukraine's NATO membership arguing that Ukraine suffered from corruption and lacked a stable democratic government. Even as late as 2017, the former E.U. president, Jean-Claude Juncker, had serious doubts about Ukraine's membership in the union. "What we are asking ... is to increase the fight against corruption because corruption is undermining all the efforts this great nation is undertaking," Juncker said at a joint briefing with then Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. "We remain very concerned."

Ukraine Corruption Rank 2000 - 2020

Corruption severely undermines public confidence in institutions. Bad as it is, the bombshell this week is far worse. President Zelenskyy fired Ivan Bakanov, the leader of Ukraine's Security Service, and Iryna Venediktova, the prosecutor general, for suspected treasonous activities. More than 650 criminal investigations have now been opened into employees of law enforcement agencies, an extraordinary situation that can have far-reaching consequences. Over 60 Ukrainian officials in the newly occupied Russian territories in the country's south and east were also charged for directly working for Russia.

Treason is serious business. Treason is the ultimate form of corruption, and systemic treason could not only weaken a country at its seams but threaten international alliances.

When Congress wrote a $60 billion blank check to Ukraine, Republicans who criticized the action were immediately deemed unAmerican and unpatriotic. Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky) inserted an amendment to appoint a special Inspector General to oversee the disbursement of funds. There was precedent here. Congress had created the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to provide independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities. Afghanistan ranks 174 on the corruption index, not that worse than Ukraine. Paul's amendment was soundly defeated, and the blank check went to President Biden's desk for signature.

That Ukraine's prosecutor general's integrity is in serious question on a matter of its national security is shocking. As the chief law enforcement officer of the country, the prosecutor general's office has been at the center of previous controversies with international import. Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general from May 2016 - Aug 2019, had cleared Hunter Biden's activities in Burisma, the oil company where the younger Biden served on its board, and closed the office's investigation in 2017. "From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything," Yuriy Lutsenko told The Washington Post. We will never know if Lutsenko was corrupt in shutting down the investigation.

On the corruption index, Ukraine is sandwiched between Eswatini and Gabon; two nations Americans know little about. Though the administration claims the right of self-determination is critical to America's foreign policy construct, it is unlikely that Washington would supply $60 billion in arms to Gabon to fend off Russia or impose crippling sanctions if President Putin had attacked Eswatini.

As Americans struggle during record inflation at home - our TIPP CPI index shows that under Biden’s watch, the price rise of every imaginable product or service is much worse than the official CPI numbers - the Federal Reserve plans to tighten monetary policy, even more, causing untold harm to millions of households. A recent TIPP Poll showed that over one in every five Americans are skipping meals and relying on food banks due to rising food prices.

It is not unpatriotic to ask our leaders why Americans are continuing to fund a war that appears to have no end. It is not unreasonable to question why America would have to bear upwards of $600 billion when Ukraine's reconstruction begins. No one is against lending a helping hand to Ukraine during the war or for reconstruction later. Still, it is only reasonable to expect that the aid given will reach the needy and not be used to line the pockets of corrupt officials. Demanding that Washington have stricter oversight procedures and appoint a Special Inspector General, as it did in the case of Afghanistan, is just due diligence on the part of its citizens and elected representatives.

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