While Ukraine has dominated headlines since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the country, which most people still can’t place on an unmarked map, has been in the minds of power players in Western capitals for years prior. And not for good reasons, either.
Ukraine ranks 116th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The ranking is a marked improvement over 2021, when Ukraine placed 122, giving it the dubious distinction of being the second-most corrupt nation in Europe. Russia, at #136, fared worse. Last week, the head of the country’s Supreme Court was detained for allegedly taking bribes. The BBC reported that the arrest came a day after specialist investigators said they had “exposed large-scale corruption” at the court.
For nearly ten years, Ukraine has been gripped by two conflicting forces. The younger elite wants the country to align itself with the West. An established middle-older generation of citizens accustomed to the corrupt practices of the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War, and the regime of the oligarchs post-Cold War, continues to look eastward toward Moscow.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s endemic corruption continues, even as America and her Western allies have poured nearly $200 billion in military and humanitarian aid in just 15 months. The amount is more money spent on a single country than any other nation in history. In last week’s G7 meeting in Hiroshima, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy addressed the G-7 leaders for even more aid and support. With the recent fall of Bakhmut, the conflict is far from over. Reconstruction costs could amount to nearly $1 trillion, all of which will again come from the West.
A recap of major events during the last ten years is shocking and invites a simple question: Why should Ukraine dominate our public discourse? Of the 196 countries in the United Nations, why is Washington so interminably connected with a country ranked 56 in GDP that is of little consequence to America? The nation is not in the E.U.; it does not have technical expertise that America covets, and its geography is not crucial to America’s global interests, like that of the State of Israel.
Two words come to mind: Joe Biden. Former Vice President Joe Biden has ensured that Ukraine became a familiar country in American living rooms.
Biden was the Obama administration’s point man in Ukraine. Published reports show that the CIA had a significant hand in the so-called Maidan revolution in Kyiv when deadly clashes between protesters and state forces in February 2014 ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian sympathizer. The official American policy goal was to help Ukraine transition to a more democratic, more Western-friendly governing authority that addresses endemic corruption.
But Biden’s son, Hunter, wanted to cash in on his father’s good offices. He assumed a board position in the Ukrainian energy company Burisma to enforce “governance and transparency,” although he had no experience in this technical area, had never worked in Ukraine, and had little knowledge of the energy industry. Burisma was owned by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky, whose assets, to the tune of $23 million, had been seized in London by British authorities just a few weeks before Hunter assumed his role. To most observers, it was clear that Ukraine was trying to buy influence all the way to the White House.
According to a United States Senate report, George Kent, the former Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, raised concerns to officials in Vice President Joe Biden’s office in early 2015 about the perception of a conflict of interest with respect to Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board. In September 2016, he emphasized in an email to his colleagues, “Furthermore, the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine.” Biden and his inner circle ignored all requests.
Even under President Trump, the National Security Council was concerned about Ukraine’s corrupt ways. The NSC provided talking points to Trump to mention corruption in his congratulatory call with President Zelenskyy, who was elected in May 2019. Trump did not use those talking points, but in a more consequential call in July, asked Zelenskyy for help to investigate Hunter. A partisan House impeached Trump for using his presidential power to influence a future election.
We noted last July that corruption severely undermines public confidence in institutions, but senior Ukrainian officials continue to give and take bribes willingly. President Zelenskyy fired Ivan Bakanov, the leader of Ukraine’s Security Service, and Iryna Venediktova, the prosecutor general, for suspected treasonous activities. More than 650 criminal investigations have been opened into employees of law enforcement agencies. Over 60 Ukrainian officials in the newly occupied Russian territories in the country’s south and east were also charged for directly working for Russia.
American taxpayers, forced by the Biden White House to continue to fund Ukraine as Washington enters a standoff over raising America’s $31 trillion debt, should not be on the hook to subsidize such criminal Ukrainian conduct. But no one in the West seems to care as each politician one-ups another to offer support to Ukraine, with no accountability in sight.
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Geopolitics And Geoeconomics
1. U.S. Says Russia’s Wagner Force Eyes Mali As Route For War Supplies – Al Jazeera
The private mercenary force, which is fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine, is willing to use false paperwork to ship military equipment through Mali, State Department said.
Miller added that the U.S. has imposed sanctions on people and entities “across multiple continents” who have been found to “support Wagner’s military operations.”
2. ‘It won’t be a game changer..’: Top U.S. Air Force Official On Transfer Of F-16s To Kyiv – WION
“It will give the Ukrainians transitional capabilities they don’t have now, but it won’t be a dramatic game changer…it won’t fundamentally change the equation,” said Frank Kendall, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force.
Kendall reiterated that supplying the multi-role fighter jet would take ‘several months at best’.
3. At Least Two Ukrainians Blew Up Nord Stream Pipelines: German Media – WION
Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office found the company that chartered the Andromeda yacht, allegedly used by the suspects of the Nord Stream blasts, to reach the site.
The Polish company Feeria Lwowa was a sham company set up in 2016 and registered by two Ukrainians.
President of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) Bruno Kahl said no intelligence could currently name those responsible for the blasts.
4. Moscow Says G7 Nuclear Rhetoric Intended To Pressure Russia, China – Reuters
In the first-ever communiqué on nuclear disarmament issued at the G7 summit last week, the group called on Russia and China to show greater transparency about their nuclear arsenals.
In comments on the document, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the statement reflects the group’s anti-Russian and anti-Chinese tone.
5. Majority Of British Firms Cautious On New Investments In China – Survey – Reuters
A majority of British companies are taking a “wait and see approach” on new investments in China amid their pessimism hitting record levels, according to the British Chamber of Commerce in China.
Based on members’ views late last year, the chamber’s findings revealed that 42% of the companies were pessimistic about their prospects in China. That number had never crossed single digits before, it said.
6. Taiwan’s WHO Exclusion Risks ‘Terrible Impact’ – AFP
Taiwan’s health chief warned that the continued exclusion of the self-ruling island from the World Health Organization (WHO) amid pressure from China posed a significant threat to global health.
Taiwan has been blocked from attending the World Health Assembly (WHA) in recent years by China.
7. Turkey Election: Third-Place Finisher Endorses Erdogan – D.W.
The third-place contender in Turkey’s presidential election, ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan, has thrown his support behind incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a key runoff race.
It was initially unclear if Ogan would endorse Erdogan or his main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Ogan received 5.2% of the vote on the election’s first round on May 14.
8. U.S. Bombs Unlikely To Reach Underground Iran Nuclear Site: Report – Al Jazeera
According to experts, near a peak of the Zagros Mountains, Iran is building a nuclear facility so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites.
With the country now producing uranium close to weapons-grade levels, the installation complicates the West’s efforts to halt Tehran from potentially developing an atomic bomb, which Iran denies seeking.
9. Iran Appoints Ambassador To Saudi Arabia, Reports Say – Middle East Eye
Nearly two months after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Iran has appointed an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, according to Mizan, Iran’s judiciary news agency.
Alireza Enayati was named as the new envoy to the kingdom. Before this new post, he served as Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait from 2014 to 2019.
10. New U.S.-Led Maritime Task Force Established In Middle East – Al Arabiya
Combined Task Force (CTF) 154 was commissioned during a ceremony at Bahrain’s U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters.
The last task force, CTF 153, was formed in April 2022 for maritime security in the Red Sea. CMF is the largest multinational naval partnership in the world, with 38 nations pledging to uphold the international rules-based order at sea.
11. U.N. Urges Sudan’s Warring Sides To Choose Peace As Cease-Fire Goes Into Effect – UPI
“Both parties have been calling on me to condemn the respective other side’s action. I call on both to end the fighting and return to dialogue in the interest of Sudan and its people,” Volker Perthes, the U.N. special representative of Sudan, said.
12. France Unveils Plan To Radically Reduce Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions – RFI
The French government has unveiled an ambitious plan to accelerate cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions, targeting a reduction of 50 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.
France has cut its emissions by 25 percent compared with 1990 levels, requiring significant fresh efforts if it is to hit the new 50 percent target.
13. Ireland Becomes First Nation To Require Cancer Warning Labels On Alcohol – UPI
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly signed the Alcohol Labeling Regulations. Labels must show calories, grams of alcohol, risks of cancer and liver disease, and the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
The law, however, won’t take effect until May 2026 to give businesses time to conform to the rules.
14. Europe’s Soaring Food Costs – Infographics
The cost of food in Europe has continued to soar, rising 16.6 percent in the year to April — despite falling energy prices — which is far more than the headline inflation rate of 8.1 percent.
Food prices in Britain rose by 15.7% in April after a 15% rise in the year to March. Retailers deny that they are price gouging and say they have to take a loss on capped goods.
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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights