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U.S. Tax Dollars Are Not Wasted in Ukraine


While the reestablished axis of autocratic regimes—Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea—is crash-testing the strength of the democratic world in many different ways, there are still many voices who claim Ukraine is a black hole for U.S. dollars. Therefore, Washington should abandon Ukraine’s existential fight for survival. In reality, at least 60 percent of the total support (90 percent in the domain of military assistance) is invested in the United States to create jobs and replenish the stocks of the U.S. military. Of the White House’s $61.4 billion budget request, $11.8 billion or 20 percent makes it to Ukraine’s budget via the World Bank. And Ukraine has a system in place to ensure account for this money. 

After years of efforts in unfolding anti-corruption and judicial reforms, Ukraine can claim a broad portfolio of accomplishments and success stories. Implemented in cooperation with the United States and other partners, these reforms were thoroughly assessed within the frameworks of the IMF memoranda and the EU integration mechanisms as a criterion for advancing support to the country. On November 8, 2023, the European Commission concluded that Ukraine had fulfilled 90 percent of the reform framework, which resulted in the EU’s decision to open membership negotiations with Ukraine on December 14, 2023. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2023, Ukraine achieved its best result since 2013, having grown by three points since last year and by eleven points in ten years. 

On February 21, 2022, just days before starting the unprovoked and unlawful full-scale war, Putin mentioned Ukrainian anti-corruption institutions in a pre-war speech. The reason is plain: he associated these institutions with Ukraine’s success in breaking away from the post-Soviet legacy. Putin could not stand a democratic, resilient, and freedom-loving nation at his doorstep. 

By now, Ukraine’s comprehensive anti-corruption framework includes a well-advanced income and assets disclosure and verification system for more than 800,000 officials, including those at the top. Established from scratch, anti-corruption investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial bodies provide a  track record of bringing top officials to justice for corruption offenses. An award-winning system of transparent electronic public procurement helps save millions of hryvnias thanks to its auction type of procurement. In the commitment to cut any undue influences on anti-corruption and judiciary institutions, Ukraine went as far as legislating the decisive role of foreign experts nominated by international partners in selecting leadership for anti-corruption institutions. 

The anti-corruption institutions’ work ended the “untouchables” era in Ukraine. Twenty-seven times more corrupt judges have been put behind bars by one anti-corruption court since 2019 compared to the results of all Ukrainian courts for decades before. Anti-corruption work has saved approximately $198 million over the past several years. They delivered justice in corruption cases and generated $55 million for the Ukrainian Armed Forces through plea bargains and other mechanisms under criminal procedures. Among the suspects for alleged top corruption are, for instance, one of Ukraine’s oligarchs, the former head of the Supreme Court, the former head of the National Bank, several ex-ministers, and several dozens of judges. Of 163 convicts, eighty-one are serving their terms in prison. This is a massive step for a country that just ten years ago had only two top convictions for alleged fraud for twenty years, both perceived as political persecution.

Here are some examples of the political will to continue reforms. In the past five months, the Parliament of Ukraine has enacted a significant bill on increasing the powers of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, as well as six other anti-corruption bills. In early 2023, it took the parliament just a month to introduce more transparency into non-lethal military procurement as a follow-up to investigative journalists’ concerns about possibly inflated meal prices in the Ministry of Defence. Establishment of independent lethal and non-lethal procurement agencies with new procedures and staff followed. As a result, according to the Auditing Chamber of Ukraine, an equivalent of $226 million of public funds were saved through better procurement processes. 

Ukraine has not сured all corruption-related problems—hardly any country in the world could claim to have done so. However, Kyiv has built a functioning system for detecting and prosecuting corruption that delivers results and deters wrongdoers. This system is a reliable partner for international allies and private investors in supporting and rebuilding the Ukrainian economy. A strong Ukraine is a security interest for the United States, and it can serve as a role model for other countries breaking free from dictatorial influences and strengthening democracy. 

Anastasia Radina is a Ukrainian MP and chairwoman of the Committee on Anti-corruption Policy.

Image: DOD Flickr. 



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