As the sun shimmered over the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, I joined thousands of others over the weekend for the peaceful Rage Against the War demonstration decrying the fact that U.S. taxpayers (myself included) are sending more than $112 billion to $120 billion to a corrupt, graft-infected country led by a former television comic actor who is basking in his ego-driven glory.
The next day, President Biden was in Kyiv, having a hug fest with the man the State Department installed in 2018, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his cronies, pledging an additional $500 million.
This warp speed of so much aid has many in a panic.
“When you spend that much money that fast, there’s bound to be problems, there’s bound to be leakage,“ said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction who reported on failure with aid to that war-ravaged country,
In 2022, Ukraine was ranked 122nd of 180 countries for corruption, the second most corrupt in Europe, by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. This has kept Kyiv out of the European Union and NATO. In January, 15 officials were dismissed or forced to resign in a corruption and bribery scandal. One official was driving around the centuries-old cobblestone streets of Kyiv in a shiny new $100,000 Porsche, bought with money meant for humanitarian aid.
According to a CNN report, authorities recovered a large amount of cash, luxury watches, and cars in a raid carried out on the tax chief’s home.
At the start of the conflict, 60% of Americans backed sending weapons to Ukraine, according to Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polling. Now it has slipped to 48%, and it is likely to go lower.
The West now sees Ukraine (with all its neo-Nazi sympathizers) as a model for change in the region, while Vladimir Putin wants to keep the country out of NATO.
Is this the hill that Americans in the grip of the highest inflation in 40 years are willing to die on?
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has supported Ukraine, but recently has warned that there “can’t be a blank check” for aid when the United States faces so much debt of its own.
The possibility of U.S. howitzers and Javelin missiles ending up in the wrong hands is also a real concern.
When I spoke with some of the protesters in Washington, they knew nothing of the country’s history. Most couldn’t find it on a map I showed them. They were just outraged at the amount of money, tanks and military hardware the United States is rushing to provide.
“We have so many problems here at home,” one young father of two told me. “Why am I working two jobs just to send more money to Zelenskyy? I’m not pro-Putin, but this mess will only get worse.”
“Biden is the Nordstream Bomber,” read one sign. “Diplomacy, Not War,” read another. But diplomacy and economic sanctions aren’t working. Neither will weapons.
The crowd swelled as we marched to the White House. One protester held a sign: “Drop Acid, Not Nukes.” A former State Department official said that as a result of America’s foreign wars, “millions of people are killed, wounded, their homes destroyed, or are refugees.”
“I’m not mad at Ukrainians,” a young woman said. “They’re dying in ditches over this. But we’re going to cut welfare benefits this month. We’re not fully funding education, and we don’t have universal health care, but we have billions to send to Ukraine?”
• Tsotne Bakuria is a political scientist, author and commentator in Washington. He is a former member of Parliament from the country of Georgia.