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OPINION | Editorial: Graft rejection

Critics sometimes have points March 23, 2023 at 2:55 a.m.

Who knew that a year would go by and Russia would still be feeding men (and according to one report, women) into the meat-grinder in Ukraine? Weren't Russian officers told to bring their Class As on the trip, so they'd look good in parades in Kyiv?

Few among the Western analysts/experts/spooks thought the Ukrainians would hold out much longer than a week or so. But after a year, Putin's War is still raging. And up in the air.

A large part of Ukraine's ability to defend its soil comes from Western supplies of ammo, equipment and weapons. Not to mention money for civilian uses, like to pay teachers and health-care workers. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer.

There are some critics, aligned starboard in this country, who wonder aloud if the price is worth it. Just this week, the Americans pledged another $350 million in weapons and equipment. The total comes to more than $32 billion in aid from the United States alone. That doesn't include the tanks and rifles and air defense ordnance flowing to Kyiv from other NATO members.

Is it worth the money? A fair question. And should be debated in a free country. (Our considered editorial opinion: Heck yes. The fight for freedom and against aggression is never cheap. To allow Comrade Putin to run roughshod through the old former USSR states, some of which are NATO members now, would take the world in the wrong direction. And send signals to Red China that Taiwan is ready to be plucked.)

But one thing the critics of all this spending have right: Ukraine has a deserved reputation for its corruption in the government ranks. If that country needs our help, and it does, it should provide receipts.

Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent President Biden a letter last month. They want more information on how U.S. dollars are being spent, and monitored, in Ukraine.

"It is critical that government agencies administering these funds ensure they are used for their intended purposes to prevent and reduce the risk of waste, fraud and abuse," the letter said.

In a strange way, it doesn't help that the Ukrainian president has fired a string of government officials after graft scandals came to light. It might certainly help in the long run, but every time President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fires somebody in a graft case, it gives his critics on these shores another day, and another news cycle, to talk about his government's history of corruption.

Some of us would argue the opposite. And suggest his government is handling this the way the governments in Washington, Berlin, London or Paris would handle this.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Ukraine's finance minister Sergii Marchenko, saying its military budget is tightly monitored. But he also admitted Ukraine needs to do more to preserve trust among its allies. "Although no specific instances have emerged so far involving the misuse of U.S. financial aid," the paper said, "Ukraine's poor general reputation for graft is causing unease as the cost of supporting the country rises."

Critics have their points. They often do.

Americans don't mind helping out in the name of freedom. In fact, holding back the aggressive tyrannical types when they start usually proves to be a great bargain in the long run.

But we don't want to be taken to the cleaners, either.

Print Headline: Graft rejection


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