Afghanistan all over again: Ukraine’s rampant corruption means the Western supply of weapons is likely to eventually backfire
Viewed from afar, the extent of Ukrainian corruption appears to go far deeper than the recent shift in the narrative might suggest, and it might come back to bite the West as weapons sent to Kiev's forces are disappearing with no account as to their whereabouts.
Just as it was with America’s support for the Mujahideen in the 1980s in fighting a proxy war against the Soviets, its backing of the Ukrainian government may one day reap a whirlwind. And just like its involvement in Afghanistan, decades ago, supporting the ‘enemy of my enemy’ involves dealing with shady characters and whitewashing their wrongdoings.
Following the onset of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the media very abruptly ceased its coverage of Ukraine’s seedy political underbelly – with dirty dealings that go all the way to the top. Even America’s sweetheart, Vladimir Zelensky, did not come away unscathed in those reports.
Just months prior to the conflict, mainstream publications, such as The Guardian, were reporting on Zelensky’s offshore connections, as exposed by the Pandora Papers. As detailed in the report, Zelensky, who campaigned for office on an anti-corruption platform, failed to disclose the extent of his offshore assets and his connections to some of the very oligarchs he promised to strip of political influence – and continued to treat everything as ‘business as usual’ once he came to power.
Fast forward to the present day: Zelensky is a squeaky clean beacon of strength and icon of liberal democracy. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called him a “hero,” and numerous celebrities have appeared alongside the Ukrainian leader in photo ops to promote his image.
But for all the pomp and grandeur surrounding Zelensky, the issue of Ukraine’s corruption is once again rearing its head. Reality is setting in for many in the West – much of the funds and armaments directed towards Ukraine’s military are going unaccounted for, and average Americans and Europeans are paying the price for it. Literally.
It’s one thing for a politician to walk back on campaign promises, but Zelensky’s apparent corruption is becoming a liability for his Western supporters.
Ukrainian-born US congresswoman Victoria Spartz, one of the loudest cheerleaders for calling on the US government to support Ukraine, has been blowing the whistle on the Ukrainian authorities, including Zelensky. As detailed by CNN last week, Spartz has leveled numerous accusations against the Ukrainian government, drawing attention to its deep-seated corruption – and she’s asking questions about where all the funds are going.
But her peers in Congress are reportedly tired of her “bellicose rhetoric,” arguing that her questions are making Ukraine look bad. After all, Zelensky’s image as a clean politician is one that needs to be preserved if members of Congress, especially those with personal stakes in defense contractors, want to keep milking the American taxpayer for continued support towards the proxy war against Russia.
But a facade as shaky as Zelensky’s can only be maintained for so long. With the economy spiraling into recession and inflation at record highs in both the US and UK, among other NATO countries, there’s only so much politicians are willing to do to maintain the narrative, especially as numerous US Democrats are struggling to hold onto their seats in the upcoming midterm elections.
Spartz isn’t alone in her criticism of the Ukrainian government and its corruption. CBS published a documentary called ‘Arming Ukraine’ detailing how much of America’s military aid to Ukraine has disappeared. Jonas Ohman, founder of the nonprofit Blue-Yellow, provides an assessment in the documentary that only as little as 30% of the military aid sent by the US ever reached the front lines.
The CBS documentary prompted a massive backlash from Ukraine’s loudest supporters on social media, with many demanding that the channel retract the report – all because it made Ukraine look bad. And CBS capitulated, putting out a retraction to state that the information was old and that the “delivery has improved.” The documentary is being “updated” accordingly. It’s anyone's guess whether CBS got the call from on high, or if it simply caved in to the demands of Twitter users with Ukrainian flags in their profile.
Regardless of the retraction, the concerns are valid and echo those raised by US intelligence sources who told CNN in April that Washington has no idea where the weapons it’s sending are actually ending up.
“We have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero,” said one of the sources. “It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time.”
Even more recently, in July, NATO and EU states demanded accountability from Ukraine for the weapons flowing into the country, noting that everything from MANPADs and rifle ammunition, to armored vehicles aren’t being properly tracked – if at all.
The Financial Times reported that NATO states called on Kiev’s leadership to establish detailed inventory lists and tracking for weapons supplied by the West.
“All these weapons land in southern Poland, get shipped to the border and then are just divided up into vehicles to cross: trucks, vans, sometimes private cars,” sa Western official told the FT. “And from that moment we go blank on their location and we have no idea where they go, where they are used or even if they stay in the country.”
Such an assessment belies CBS’ new claim that “delivery has improved,” which would not account for the billions in munitions and military aid sent to Ukraine since the onset of the conflict.
Apart from highly-regulated armaments such as the US’ state-of-the-art HIMARS mobile artillery pieces, much of the weaponry sent to Ukraine has simply disappeared into a black hole – a fact made evident by concerns raised by Swedish police who warned that “there is probably a high risk that flows of illegal weapons will enter Sweden.”
With so little accountability about where any of the weapons are going, and an unwillingness to face the facts, the West may stand to face something akin to a renewal of the War on Terror, especially with existing threats such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS already in the process of regrouping and rebuilding – and potentially rearming with Western weapons.
Meanwhile, with the training provided to radical neo-Nazi extremists such as the Azov Battalion to combat the Russians, the West’s concerns with white supremacy may become manifest in something more than a few racist trolls on social media.
And it’s all because the politicians needed their anti-Russian stand-in state to appear as a dishonestly presented posterboy for ‘liberalism’ and ‘democracy’.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.