Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for his usual order of war aid in a speech yesterday after a Russian missile struck a Kremenchuk shopping mall, killing at least 12 people, Zelensky said, and injuring 24. Zelensky demanded more help from the West, despite the United States pouring billions of dollars into his government’s coffers while voters grapple with a struggling economy at home.
“The world can, and therefore must, stop Russian terror,” Zelensky’s speech read. “And now I can already say this – I heard it from our partners: Ukraine must get reliable missile defense, we are expecting the supply of appropriate systems.”
Zelensky seeks to portray Ukraine’s war with Russia as the world’s war with Russia. From his expectation of funding and weapon supply to his targeted language describing Russia as the “largest terrorist organization in the world,” Zelensky understands he needs to convince the world it has a stake in his war if he wants their support.
Yesterday’s speech follows Zelensky’s April statement that Ukraine needs $7 billion monthly to replenish the resources depleted by the war with Russia. Zelensky’s assumption that the world will provide it, though brash, is by no means unfounded.
From the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February to May, the U.S. alone has delivered around $54 billion in aid to Ukraine. The U.S. has sent $6.1 billion in weapons and equipment, per a June 24 Department of Defense report, though that number doesn’t encompass every military-related expense we’ve incurred in support of Ukraine. Using his Presidential Drawdown authority, President Biden has pulled our own military resources to give billions of dollars worth of equipment and weapons to Ukraine. Biden has issued 13 drawdowns for Ukraine since August 2021.
Amidst billions of dollars worth of supplies, ammunition, vehicles, body armor, and radars, the U.S. has sent more than 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine (likely valued at around $630 million), more than 6,500 Javelin anti-armor systems (an estimated cost of more than $1 billion), more than 20,000 other anti-armor systems, over 700 Switchblade drones (estimated to cost more than $4 million), 126 155mm Howitzers (worth as much as $94 million) and hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds, 20 Mi-17 helicopters (worth around $300 million), and eight High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. This tally does not include the expense of the more than 100,000 troops Biden has deployed to NATO-member countries since the Russian invasion.
Our bill is already more than 7 percent of the U.S. 2022 defense budget. Even more astounding, the $54 billion we’ve sent is more than the entire requested budget for the U.S. Marine Corps. Yet Zelensky still wants more from us. As for the $40 billion in aid Biden signed off on in May, there is no direct oversight in how the money is being allocated. With no fiscal responsibility, one has to wonder where the money is going once it reaches Ukraine — and whether it’s even making it into the right hands.
Ukraine ranked the second most corrupt country in Europe in Transparency International’s 2021 Corrupt Perceptions Index, second only to Russia. Zelensky recently tightened control by shutting down the opposition’s TV stations and banning over 10 political parties in Ukraine.
“Through his tenure, Transparency International registered a rise in the level of corruption perceived by the Ukrainian public,” Cristian Nitoiu of Loughborough University, told Al Jazeera. “In the policy and academic sphere, Zelensky has been frequently criticised for being in the pocket of Ukrainian oligarchs who did not have a privileged position under Poroshenko’s presidency.”
With billions of dollars in aid packages and yet no fiscal responsibility, there is no way to track what went where. We are funding a notoriously corrupt country with the added logistical nightmare of wartime. Worse, we’re funding a war that likely cannot be won. Zelensky needs the world to believe he will win against Russia in order for them to support him. But Russia has shown that it is not deterred by loss and will keep feeding men and materials into Ukraine.