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22 Feb, 2023 20:58

US Republicans demand Ukraine aid oversight

The party has asked the Biden administration to prove that tens of billions of dollars worth of assistance isn’t being siphoned off
US Republicans demand Ukraine aid oversight

The House Oversight Committee demanded on Wednesday that the Pentagon, State Department and US Agency for International Development prove that the $113 billion in military and economic aid allocated to Ukraine isn’t being lost to “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer urged the three officials to turn over all documents and communications regarding any economic and military assistance programs for the Ukrainian government.

Comer’s committee is also demanding documentary evidence of the Biden administration’s plans to tie aid shipments to anti-corruption initiatives, and documents detailing how the administration evaluates the success of its aid drive.

The letter gives Biden’s officials until March 8 to provide all the evidence, dating back to the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last February.

“Providing security and humanitarian assistance for warfighting and reconstruction purposes comes with an inherent risk of fraud, waste, and abuse,” Comer wrote. “The United States must identify these risks and develop oversight mechanisms to mitigate them.”

While National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claimed in January that the administration has “not seen any signs” that military or economic aid “has fallen prey to any kind of corruption in Ukraine,” a slew of reports from the country suggest otherwise.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky fired a number of top officials last month for profiteering from foreign aid, while reports from last year – backed up by Amnesty International – suggested that as little as 30% of Western weapons sent to Ukraine were actually making it to the front lines. 

American and Canadian officials admitted at the time that they had no idea where most of these weapons were ending up, with one US intelligence source telling CNN that they disappear “into a big black hole” once they enter Ukraine.

Republicans in Congress have broadly supported President Joe Biden’s policy of arming Ukraine, although before his party retook control of the House of Representatives last November, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned that the GOP would no longer write “a blank check” for Kiev. 

Comer’s letter does not call for a halt to US aid, although a minority of anti-intervention Republicans have sponsored legislation that would cut Kiev off from US funding entirely.