How Much U.S. Military and Economic Aid to Ukraine Has Been Stolen?

News & Politics

Zelensky said on Sunday night that he would ask parliament to approve his nomination of Rustem Umerov, head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, to replace Oleksii Reznikov, who has served as defense minister since November 2021 and was responsible for overseeing billions in weapons and other military aid.

Reznikov’s removal comes after months of speculation that he would be ousted. Although Reznikov has not been charged personally in ongoing corruption investigations and Zelensky did not cite malfeasance in his announcement, several high-profile allegations of graft have plagued the Defense Ministry.

“The question here is, ‘Where is the money?’” said Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine. The group is dedicated to exposing and ending corruption in Ukraine.

“Corruption can kill,” Kaleniuk said. “Depending on how effective we are in guarding the public funds, the soldier will either have a weapon or not have a weapon.”

Recently, President Zelenskyy dismissed all regional military recruitment heads after several huge scandals involving bribes to get out of military service and fake medical certificates were exposed. Some regional recruitment chiefs used new recruits for personal business such as constructing a private estate.

But when the defense minister is caught up in corruption, you have to wonder if anyone in the Ukrainian government is immune from the temptation when billions of dollars are floating around, dangled in front of the eyes of officials.

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New York Times:

At one point this year, about $980 million in weapons contracts had missed their delivery dates, according to government figures, and some prepayments for weapons had vanished into overseas accounts of weapons dealers, according to reports made to Parliament. Though precise details have not emerged, the irregularities suggest that procurement officials in the ministry did not vet suppliers, or allowed weapons dealers to walk off with money without delivering the armaments.

Ukrainian media reports have pointed to overpayments for basic supplies for the army, such as food and winter coats.

The Biden administration would have Republicans in Congress just sit down, shut up, and add a few more zeroes to the aid being demanded. Certainly, some on the right want to use the waste and fraud as an excuse to cut off all aid to Ukraine. That would be unwise. Demanding an accounting of U.S. aid is not the same as allowing the Russians to walk over Ukraine for an easy victory. Pulling the rug out from underneath Zelenskyy would cause a collapse of the strategic position of the United States in Eastern Europe and empower Vladimir Putin. I can’t think of anything more dangerous.

Aid can also be used as a lever to force Zelenskyy to see reason and start working toward a negotiated peace. Ukraine can’t win. And the sooner he realizes that, the sooner hostilities will end and the rebuilding of his country can begin.

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