Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is under pressure to fight corruption, this time in the defense sector, and he’s responded with a heavy-handed proposal to treat war-related graft as treason.
It’s making allies nervous and they should be. Zelenskyy replaced his defense minister just recently after removing several top officials for skimming funds or taking bribes. The problem is real and hardly unique. Russia’s military performance has raised even bigger questions about what happened to tens of billions spent on defense modernization over more than a decade. Where are all those unbeatable Armata tanks the Kremlin talked up for years?
There’s no need just to pick on ex-Soviet states. A fire hose of U.S. taxpayer money went missing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bribery in the global arms trade is endemic. And who can forget the Pentagon’s 2018 purchase of $10,000 toilet seats? Or its $485 hammers in the 1980s? Ukraine, though, really is different. It’s relying on foreign allies, as well as crowdfunding from Europe’s poorest population, to bankroll its fight for survival. In those circumstances, lost money leads directly to lost faith and lost lives.