De­fense black hole

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

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.”

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