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While Zelensky is in the US asking for more funds to support the war in Ukraine I read on the media that there was some debate whether it is worth or not to keep funding them. I got the feeling that the debate is missing a point. Past experience like the reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan plus many projects partly supported by the World bank has shown that often funds granted by the US administration are ineffective due to the many kickbacks. So I would like to know if there is anyone in charge of overseeing how all those funds are used.

I understand that a lot of support is given directly are materiel, but apart from that there is still a lot of cash involved.

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    Voting not to close - voters need to know how public money is spent and not misused, and as one of the oldest and vibrant democracies in the world, the US definitely has well-defined policies, laws and regulation to ensure accountability for the money it spends. This question can hence be answered factually. As for doubts on whether this question "promote or discredit a specific political cause", it's common knowledge that Ukraine has corrupt politicians - it's former President faces corruption charges and Zelensky himself fought on a platform against corruption (and is serious about it).
    – sfxedit
    Sep 22, 2023 at 14:16
  • is anyone in charge of overseeing how all those funds are used ? -> wouldn't that be, at least, the Ukraine government ?
    – Evargalo
    Sep 25, 2023 at 12:35
  • You'd probably want to ask the same about financial aid by EU institutions. According to the first graph in this BBC article they have almost exclusively provided financial aid to the tune of $80 billion (while individual countries have mostly given military aid).
    – JJJ
    Sep 25, 2023 at 13:31
  • "...there is still a lot of cash involved" This is a very imprecise statement and the question could do the research and at least try to ballpark this lot with publicly available figures. It surely is orders of magnitude smaller than the reconstructions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Not so say that this makes the question invalid, surely one could ask even for accountability for smaller amounts of cash, but it would give the question quite a bit of context. Sep 26, 2023 at 6:40
  • Random thing... the whole thing in the Canadian parliament (when they honored the old guy who was in a Waffen SS unit, while Zelensky was there) was hilarious - first of all they said he fought against Russia for Ukranian independence in WWII... Hmm... Russia was fighting... The Nazis... So that means he was fighting... With the Nazis... Against Russia. It also undercuts what Ukraine has been trying to do in past decades, denying that Ukranians weren't a massive part of massacring Jews in the holocaust.
    – Kovy Jacob
    Sep 28, 2023 at 8:42

3 Answers 3

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Excellent Question.

Is there any accountability for the money the US provides for the war in Ukraine?

Short Answer:

Every aid package approved by Congress be it funds or military equipment has included legislation to track and account for that aid after it reaches Ukraine. The DoD, State Department, and USAID operate inside Ukraine tracking aid and reporting back to Congress.

Long Answer:

Report by the United States Dept. of Defense Inspector General who reports to Congress on Ukrainian Aid. March 29, 2023.

Transparency and Accountability: US Assistance to Ukraine

[The] US government carefully tracks American aid to Ukraine. The Department of Defense (DoD) established a Security Assistance Group Ukraine last fall that tracks military shipments. (By contrast, the US did not establish a similar effort in Afghanistan until seven years into the war).

Moreover, Congress required significant reporting on oversight and accountability in each major assistance package passed to date: the four Ukraine supplemental, the FY2023 NDAA, and the FY2022 and FY2023 omnibus bills.

Specifically, Congress mandated the creation of a list of all security assistance and defense articles provided to Ukraine—and enhanced monitoring of that equipment once it enters Ukraine.

Congress also mandated that the DoD reports on all end-use of military equipment. As of this writing, the DoD has found no evidence of Ukraine diverting US-supplied defense equipment. This makes basic sense: a smaller, weaker country like Ukraine could not defeat its much larger Russian adversary if Western weapons were not reaching the front lines.


Direct bipartisan Congressional oversight.

U.S. Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Lisa McClain (R-MI), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Mark Alford (R-MO), and Chairman Rogers released the following statement after Traveling to review Ukrainian aid oversight.

ROGERS LEADS CODEL TO ROMANIA AND POLAND TO OVERSEE UKRAINE AID

“The American people have every right to know that U.S. military equipment donated to Ukraine is being used for its intended purpose – Ukraine’s fight for national survival.

“As a bipartisan Congressional delegation, we traveled to Poland and Romania to conduct oversight of this process. We came away with a clear understanding of the various safeguards the U.S. government, in partnership with the Ukrainians and other nations, have put in place to ensure each article is accounted for and tracked to the frontline of the war.


From the Comments:

Thank you for the answer. There is just a point missing. The US provided also the equivalent of 20 billion dollars in financial aid. That was the target of my question more than the materiel (or military equipment). This one of the sources I took into account.

My answer covers both forms of aid, financial and equipment. Congress tends to look at both in forms of dollars. Money is equipment and equipment is money. Doesn't matter if you are stealing it, if you are providing it, or if you are tracking it to account for it.

Here I'll try to be more precise. There are four general categories of aid to Ukraine.

  • Military aid (both funds and equipment); U.S Currently has spent around $46 Billion [ Tracked by the DoD inspector General who reports back to Congress ]

  • Humanitarian assistance, both money and equipment $13.2 billion [ Tracked by USAID, who also reports back to Congress ]

  • Economic support to the Ukrainian government, which goes directly to the Ukrainian government to allow continuing operations since the war has disrupted its own mechanisms for raising revenue. Currently stands at $28.5 billion [ Tracked by US State Dept. Inspector General, who reports back to Congress ]

  • U.S. government operations and domestic costs related to Ukraine, which covers the increased expenses to government agencies for operations like moving embassy personnel and prosecuting war criminals. It also includes $2 billion for support to energy companies, particularly the nuclear industry, to offset higher supplier costs. All in $18.4 billion [ Tracked by US DoD, DoS, and USAID Inspector Generals, probable others too, who reports back to Congress ]

All in that comes to $110bn aid to Ukraine not including what Biden recently requested.

To put that in perspective Total military, government, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine over the last 19 months is:

  • 65% of what the U.S. Defense Department will spend in 1 month in 2023.
  • 3% of the U.S Defense budget was over those 19 months.
  • 0.2% of U.S. GDP over 19 months. Feb 2022 - Sept 2023.

It's not like we don't account for 1000 - 10,000 times that much money even in peace time in any given year.

Now figure what would happen if Wagner crossed the Polish boarder and we had to send U.S. Troops over there? The Iraqi war cost us 10 billion a month about 20 years ago. Conservatively say that would come in at 3 times that in defense of Europe. Every dime we spend on Ukraine purely from an economic stance, saves us money.

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  • Thank you for the answer. There is just a point missing. The US provided also the equivalent of 20 billion dollars in financial aid. That was the target of my question more than the materiel (or military equipment). This one of the sources I took into account.
    – mustermax
    Sep 21, 2023 at 18:29
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    I think the percentages are messed up in the answer: 0.03% should be 3% and 0.002% should be 0.2%. (You need to multiply by 100 when computing percent.) Sep 22, 2023 at 4:53
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    I would distinguish a lot more between actual cash aid which is a relatively small portion of total aid and in general is at a high risk of disappearing through all kinds of shady channels and equipment, especially military equipment, which is much harder to use for anything but the stated purpose.
    – quarague
    Sep 22, 2023 at 5:49
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    And, of course, the equipment "value" is based off of what was spent rather than what it's really worth. The military-industrial complex is constantly producing new military equipment and ordnance, a good bit of which will wind up rusting/rotting away because we're not at war, but we want to be ready to be. When the US provides military aid, it's often with these largely surplus supplies of war, which were expensive to make, but we aren't actually going to use for ourselves. Sep 22, 2023 at 14:43
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    @SeanDuggan The most reasonable cost to give is the marginal cost, but that can be very difficult to calculate. As you say, the material would have rusted away eventually anyway if it wasn't used, but what if something else comes up that it would have been used for? And by that logic, you could buy ice cream on your way to work each day, and then when you get to work you can eat the ice cream and say "It was going to melt anyway, so it's free ice cream!". And then there's the question of R&D, which is usually included in the cost, even thought it's not part of the marginal cost. Etc. Sep 23, 2023 at 21:28
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I will take a less "process oriented" viewpoint that JMS's answer. While not wrong, I bet there were plenty of "processes and checkpoints", on paper, with Iraqi and Afghan funds. The American taxpayer certainly got reassured, each year, that their hard earned $, were not being wasted.

Instead, I think the question is starting out from a false equivalence.

I really don't think Afghanistan and Iraq are comparable. True, Ukraine has a real corruption problem. However, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, there seems to be a general consensus in the population that they need to fight for their country. So one would expect them to at least try to use funds for military purposes rather than the enrichment of a few, since they perceive their country to be at an existential threat. There is some indication of that, in that Zelensky has been purging some high ranking people (though cynics might also think of scapegoats).

There is also plenty of indication of that in their achievements on the battlefield to date. Neither the Iraqi nor Afghan national armies had anywhere near this level of resistance to adversity. Remember all those "ghost soldiers" in Afghanistan?

Is there no corruption? No, I did not say that. It's just that it seems massively less like pouring water into a sieve than late Afghanistan.

It is not necessarily a bad question. The West should definitely watch over Ukraine's war on corruption. Not least because a credible end to the war and bringing lasting stability would involve the Ukraine joining the EU quickly, which will be hindered by corruption.

And in the case of Ukraine, that also means that the EU is pushing its nosy little nose into Ukraine's corruption issues, a task they are already well acquainted with doing from dealing with a number of problem countries in the EU. That is considerably less of a checkbox exercise for the EU than vetting Afghan compliance would have been for US overseers.

It has reinstated its anti-corruption scheme after it originally expired in 2017. And it recently selected new heads of its anti-corruption institutions, its Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office [SAPO] and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine [NABU].

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's administration has also dismissed a string of local, national and law enforcement officials. And anti-corruption prosecutors from both SAPO and NABU have made high-profile corruption arrests.

In June, a judge in the Kyiv region made international headlines after he was arrested for hiding more than €136,000 worth of bribes in pickle jars.

The NATO-Ukraine relationship is also very different in nature than the NATO-Afghanistan, let alone the US-Iraq one. In both those cases, the funds were coming from a group which many locals considered as occupiers. Wasting occupiers' money is a very different thing than wasting the money of people who are perceived to be helping you.

Still, certainly a space to watch.

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    There is a problem in your answer. You assume that the corruption hindering the effectiveness of the funds is at a local level. However most of the times local officials are just scapegoats who get no more than the crumbs. If the money provided to Iraq, Afghanistan and other third world countries disappears it disappears at the source. In the US themselves.
    – mustermax
    Sep 21, 2023 at 18:05
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    Are you saying US funds get subverted in the US? That is waaay too conspiracy theory oriented for my taste and I see no reason to answer on that basis. Sep 21, 2023 at 18:09
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    The idea that a powerful and well informed country like the US could pour billions in the hands of Karzai for more than ten years and then claim that they could do nothing to stop the embezzlements is not credible. Especially when you remember that karzai was handpicked by the US to rule the country.
    – mustermax
    Sep 21, 2023 at 18:17
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    @mustermax I don't disagree with the frustration. It is a bit like plowing the sea - pointless. Only with the claim that it was fixable. The US has had similar experiences in the past, like Vietnam, which failed for exactly the same reasons. That familiarity is why I feel some confidence claiming they are not that comparable. Simply put: people in Afghanistan and Vietnam did not support their government very much, care for US/NATO involvement and had very low expectations from their rulers. That leads to a culture of graft and demotivation. Sep 21, 2023 at 18:20
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    Further note here is that a lot of money is US arming Ukraine who is using these weapons on the battlefield now. It isn't a huge shipment of weapons that people are trained in but never actually use. If you send 10 tanks that get blown up, you know where that money ended. But the non-weapon portion of aid? Nobody really knows how much is stolen. Sep 22, 2023 at 11:44
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The Defense Criminal Investigative Service conducts fraud prevention and investigative activities that play a critical role in ensuring the integrity of U.S. assistance to Ukraine. It currently has the team of more than 90 professionals.

The U.S. has provided the Ukrainians with ways to track the military systems it provides. Tracking includes scanners and software, as well as remote visits to sites when conditions permit.

(source, defense.gov)

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