Donations in Corrupt Nations Part 3: Ukraine

In the first installment of Donations in Corrupt Nations, I posed several questions regarding the U.S. aid to Ukraine this year. With conflicts abound in the eastern-european nation, will the money intended to help fight corruption truly be used responsibly? I analyzed two large donations made to other nations in the past 4 years to compare and contrast the effects of monetary aid packages in countries plagued by corruption.

I have previously mentioned that the U.S. pledged $10 million USD with the intent of fighting corruption. This money is in addition to a $1 billion USD loan guarantee that was promised earlier this year to help finance the country under its new leadership. The loan guarantee was pledged after pro-Russian Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov fled to Moscow and leadership shifted to pro-Western politicians. The split between pro-Western and pro-Russian backers has caused Ukraine’s government to become increasingly unstable.

Ukraine’s corruption problem is so prevalent that U.S. diplomats have referred to Ukraine’s government as a kleptocracy. This is a form of political corruption where the government exists only to build up the wealth and power of the ruling class while the wider populations suffers for it. Bribes are seen as customary in Ukraine, and are commonplace when requesting any type of government service. Timely service or any service at all depends on the size of the bribe provided to government representatives. Back in 2011, President Victor Yanukovych made a statement that 10-15% of state budget ends up in the pockets of government officials due to corruption. Sectors reported with the highest levels of corruption include the police force, health services, and the education system. The judicial system is no stranger to corruption either, as the head of Ukraine’s Security Service was photographed wearing $32,000 USD watch despite it costing the same as his yearly income.

Humanitarian conditions are constantly worsening in the region, with one UN ambassador referring to the situation as “disastrous.” The same ambassador also reported that 80% of homes had been completely destroyed by government shelling in many small towns. Russia is accused of providing support to the aggressor separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, adding fuel to an already tense situation. An ambassador from the US went as far as to say that Russia could “singlehandedly stop the unrest in the region.” She went on to ask Russia to halt the flow of money, weapons, and fighters from entering Ukraine.

Will the donation of more than $1 billion USD help stabilize the region in this time of crisis? With Moscow allegedly supporting the pro-Russian Separatists and the USA and others funding the pro-Western fighters, it seems that the conflict can only escalate. Much of the financial aid from both sides is being used to fund weaponry and fighters, rather than improving the lives of Ukraine’s people. With rumors abound of the government indiscriminately shelling small towns and residential areas, the welfare of citizens in Ukraine appears to leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully with time we will be able to see the impact of not only the donations made, but also what effect America’s involvement had in this volatile situation.

As was the case in Senegal in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2012, the situation in Ukraine leaves the government in constant instability and does not allow for donated money to be used effectively. From an outsiders perspective, it may even look like two major powers funding opposite sides of the conflicts for their own agendas, rather than bettering the lives of Ukraine’s citizens. Ukraine has been consistently ranked “very corrupt” on Transparency International’s corruption index as well, quite similar to Senegal and Afghanistan’s rankings. As was seen in these countries, donations had little effect when the government officials handling the money were corrupt. While we will have to wait and see how this situation in Ukraine develops, if similar situations in the past are anything to go by, the monetary donations may not have the impact that the U.S. has hoped for.

Donations Corruption Ukraine
Infographic from Transparency International. Licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0


It can be generally agreed upon that donated funds were misused in Senegal and Afghanistan in the past five years. And after analyzing the similar situation in Ukraine, it seems as if the pledged money is already being used for the wrong purposes. Perhaps in years to come we will see a difference made from the financial aid, but for now we can only hope that some of the money is effective in its intended purposes: improving the lives of Ukrainian citizens and combatting the rampant corruption that challenges the nation.