Defense black hole
Ukraine is spending unprecedented sums of money on its national defense, with good reason, given Russia’s war against Ukraine. The government has pledged to spend 5 percent of gross domestic product on security and defense. That amounts to $5 billion, up from almost nothing in the last years of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s plunderous rule. It is set to rise to more than $6 billion next yer.
But much of this spending is cloaked in secrecy. There is no way to know whether the money is being well-spent, patriotically, or for profit and who benefits. Informed critics have pointed the finger at President Petro Poroshenko as profiteering from war and installing two ex-business partners, Roman Romanov of Ukroboronprom and Oleh Gladkovskiy of the National Security and Defense Council, as key decisionmakers.
What’s required is greater transparency and independent oversight. Automatic classification of all defense spending as secret for national security reasons is not what democracies do. Listen to what some of the experts told the Kyiv Post in today’s front-page story:
Member of parliament Oksana Syroyid: “The president is one of the main beneficiaries of the defense budget.”
Finance Minister Oleksandr Danyliuk: Defense spending is “fully non-transparent.”
Ex-U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Michael Carpenter: Ukroboronprom, the state arms agency, “is a recipe for corruption.”
Viktor Plakhuta, ex-Economy Ministry official: “Unfortunately, the president is not a reformer.”
We don’t know the size of the fire that is burning, but plenty of responsible people are seeing smoke and sounding the alarm. Their voices should be heeded.
Danyliuk summarized what is at stake: “If you want to build a strong, competitive army, we need to put more money in building or buying new weaponry. In order to do it, there needs to be some transparency, some accountability for money put in, because then there will be trust.”