WATERLOO – Concerns about weapons getting into the hands of terrorists and money ending up in the coffers of corrupt officials are growing as the United States has provided Ukraine with more than $100 billion in financial help and weapons in less than a year, with more on the way to confront Russia’s incursion.
A closer look into the military and humanitarian help going to Ukraine is required, according to the special inspector general who has been in charge of overseeing aid to Afghanistan since 2012 and some House Republicans. The size of the endeavor is enormous. Although the cost of sending American troops to Afghanistan was much higher, the $113 billion that Congress has allocated for that country in 2022 is comparable to the $146 billion that was spent there in 20 years for military and humanitarian aid.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, stated in an interview that “fraud, waste, and abuse will occur when you spend so much money so quickly, with so little control.” “Huge amounts.”
The Pentagon disputes that claim, claiming that measures have been taken to assure that US weaponry is handed to Ukrainian forces and then accounted for.
The Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, Sabrina Singh, stated that the department “takes our commitment to Ukraine seriously” and that’s why “we implemented rigorous systems to track the assets we are giving to equip Ukraine.”
Support for Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s unjustified invasion is still strong among Americans and on Capitol Hill. But, it is ebbing. In a survey conducted by the Associated Press in late January, 48% of American adults said they supported arming Ukraine, 29% opposed it, and 22% said they had no opinion. This is a decrease from May 2022, when 60% of US citizens said they supported arming Ukraine.
In the absence of greater openness and responsibility for the tens of billions spent, support may continue to decline among Americans and Ukrainians, according to members of Congress and Sopko. As the Biden administration supplies more expensive and advanced weapons to Ukraine, including Abrams combat tanks, the expenses to American taxpayers are certain to rise.
They assert that more control is necessary to ensure the aid reaches the appropriate people.
The US has trouble accounting for the billions it sent to Ukraine
The Joint Strategic Oversight Plan for Ukraine Response report states that the Pentagon spent $62.3 billion on Ukraine in 2022 in the form of weaponry, ammunition, training, logistics, supplies, wages, and stipends. The report was made public in January by the inspector general of various agencies.
$46 billion was spent by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development on projects ranging from border security to funding for essential public services like electricity, hospitals, schools, and firefighters. $5 billion more was spent by other governmental organizations, notably the Department of Agriculture.
The report made notice of the challenges American agencies had in keeping track of the billions spent.
For instance, the Inspector General of the Pentagon found that the Pentagon was “unable to provide end-use monitoring in compliance with DoD policy” in Ukraine. To ensure that weapons and ammunition are utilized as intended, “end-use monitoring” includes tracking the serial numbers of both.
At the height of American participation, the Pentagon had 100,000 service members in Afghanistan monitoring military aid. It was also far more expensive: According to a Pentagon analysis, the total amount spent by the United States on the war and reconstruction in Afghanistan is expected to be $899 billion. The majority of American involvement in Ukraine is restricted to diplomatic personnel. President Joe Biden has vowed to keep American combat soldiers out of the battle in Ukraine, where there are now no combat troops stationed.
More than 1,600 portable Stinger anti-aircraft missiles have been delivered by the Military in addition to thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammo. Sopko, who supports the U.S. attempt to aid Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, warned that without proper protections, they may end up in the wrong hands.
He answered, “Who knows what might occur if those things become redirected?
Keeping inventories is tough because there aren’t many US military or State Department employees in Ukraine, according to the article. Also, the enormous sum of money makes the effort more difficult. The risk of money being siphoned off by dishonest authorities is noted in the report.
The report states that given the volume and pace of the aid and the operating environment during a war, the “State is overseeing unprecedented amounts of security assistance in Ukraine, presenting the high danger of misuse and diversion.”
The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Singh, stated that Ukraine is assisting in the surveillance of American armaments.
The Ukrainians log and track U.S.-items once they arrive in the country and provide expenditure and damage reports, according to Singh. “Through our dedicated personnel, we make comprehensive records of U.S. weapons donations at our distribution nodes immediately before the transfer to Ukraine,” Singh said.
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., a member of the House Military Services Committee, said that is insufficient. To ensure that the weapons are utilized appropriately, the Pentagon needs more inspectors on the ground in Ukraine.
The difference between that kind of observation and the Ukrainians’ self-reporting, he said, is crucial.
The lack of monitoring in Ukraine is comparable to corruption in Afghanistan
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made it a top goal to eradicate corruption in Ukraine, which has a long history of it.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine is ranked 116th out of 180 countries. As press reports revealed that military ministry employees had purchased food for the troops at exorbitant prices, the defense minister nominated new deputies on February 14.
Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan, claimed that corruption erodes the public’s trust in the administration. The evident corruption alienated Afghans as elites in Afghanistan stole from American aid funds.
Because the Afghan people had little faith in their government, the Taliban nearly captured Kabul without a struggle.
Without a monitor, he cautioned, the same thing may occur in Ukraine.
Also, we helped many warlord oligarchs in Afghanistan, according to Sopko. “The worry is that if we don’t get our ducks in a straight and signal real oversight, we’ll be repeating the same mistake in Ukraine. You’re going to lose the support of the Ukrainian people, the people who are fighting and dying, just like the Afghan people lost faith in their government as a result of the crimes and corruption committed by these oligarchs.”
Republicans demand more monitoring because they “need truth tellers”
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Rep. Dan Bishop, R-North Carolina, wrote a letter to the White House demanding an expansion to a report on the level of security aid provided to Ukraine that was required by Congress. The MPs want additional information on the amount of money delivered to Ukraine and its intended use.
In a statement, Bishop stated that “the American people deserve to know exactly where their money is going.” “A thorough, open accounting is an absolute requirement.”
Congress must oversee the use of tax monies transferred abroad, according to James Comer, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. If there was waste or abuse, the committee will investigate.
Comer stated in a statement to the associated press that “we owe it to the American taxpayer to account for how their money is used.”
Officials from the Biden administration, including those from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the offices of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, visited Kyiv last month to provide more oversight of Ukraine’s response efforts, according to a release from the USAID.
Sopko is in favor of establishing a new special inspectorate that would only oversee aid to Ukraine. He claimed that the Departments of Defense and State’s inspector general teams are already overworked.
Someone who could speak truth to power and isn’t concerned about offending his boss in Washington, according to Sopko, is needed. “What you need is that. Truth-tellers are necessary.”