According to American political scientist Christine Fair, about 80 percent of aid money that was pumped into Afghanistan during the US-NATO deployment in that country was re-cycled back into the US. Most of the aid never reached the intended beneficiaries. The US claims were for arming and equipping the Afghan National Army (ANA) to a strength of 3,50,000. But the ANA never reached that number though the arming and equipping “on paper” may have been for that strength.  Lakhs of weapons could not be accounted for, which hardly mattered anyway since the US finally abandoned weapons and military equipment worth US$92 billion to the Taliban.

The situation in Ukraine would be the same, if not more lucrative for the scavengers, topmost being the US and Ukraine – with American companies owning 60 percent of the arable land in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden’s personal interests – son ‘Hunter’ was earning $50,000 monthly from one single firm in Ukraine when Biden was still the US Vice President, American contractors (Blackwater?) managing logistics in Ukraine, and the well known black market of arms in Ukraine. At the same time Ukraine will strive to draw the maximum flesh with its current standing of 122 among 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). 

The aid pouring into Kiev since the launch of the Russian special operations in Ukraine is already worth US$126 billion – provided by the US, Europe and their allies. More will continue to flow in because much of it will flow back into the US while the Biden Administration rallies Europe and others behind it. On November 15, 2022, the White House asked Congress for another US$38 billion in aid to Ukraine. If approved, it would bring the total amount Congress has appropriated for Ukraine to more than US$100 billion from the US alone since February 2022.

Arms Ammunition in grey market
PG-7R tandem HEAT 105 mm rounds and ammo (Photo: twitter)

The additional US$38 billion proposed by the White House (including US$21 billion in military aid) is perhaps in response to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, stating that the war has wiped out at least 35 percent of the country’s economy and calling on the West for an immediate economic package of US$ 17 billion and a monthly economic aid of US$ 1.5 billion beginning 2023. But the much bigger bonanza will come from scavenging when the reconstruction of Ukraine begins with experts estimating that rebuilding Ukraine would cost anything up to US$ 100 trillion. 

The moot point is that reconstruction of Ukraine can commence in real terms only once the war ends, which the US wants to continue indefinitely; why would it let go of the golden goose with Ukraine President Volodymyr  Zelenskyy dancing and bleating to Washington’s tune. But concurrently, the US has hit Europe with a double whammy; shortages and inflation from the war in Ukraine and in addition America’s green subsidies and taxes plus the Inflation Reduction Act that would cripple Europe’s economy and severely damage their manufacturing and industries.

The Biden Administration has successfully brainwashed Europe that Putin the ‘He-Man’ is set to gobble up their territories and only Biden the ‘Master of the Universe’ can save them. The latest American ploy of capping Russian oil prices through the G7 is going to backfire on Europe, especially with Saudi Arabia and OPEC+ having announced further reduction in oil production. Given the demonstrated abilities of the current set of European leaders they are unlikely to see the American trap – or rather lack the guts to acknowledge it. But the least that they should think about is to achieve and maintain strategic economic autonomy rather than let Europe sink deeper into the vortex.

According to CBS Broadcasting Inc, about 70 percent of military aid sent to Ukraine failed to find its way to the intended beneficiaries. More importantly, the donor countries are often unable to control its intended use. US Marine Corps veteran Andy Milburn says, “I can tell you unarguably that on the frontline units these things are not getting there. Drones, Switchblades, IFAKs. They’re not, alright. Body armour, helmets, you name it.” The CBS documentary reports that some of the weapons are sold on the black market.

According to ‘Grayzone’, weapons and humanitarian aid provided for the Ukrainian military is being stolen along the way and never reaches the soldiers. The same report quotes Samantha Morris, a doctor from Maine who went to Ukraine in May 2022, saying, “The first time I crossed the border from Poland, I had to hide my medical supplies under mattresses and diapers to prevent them from being stolen…. border guards on the Ukrainian side will just take things, and tell you, we need this for our war, but they steal the items and resell them. Honestly, if you don’t hand-deliver donations to the intended recipients, the items will never reach them.” 

A decade before the ongoing war in Ukraine, Ukraine had already gained the reputation of one of the world’s most active suppliers of illegal small arms; as one of several Eastern European countries that turned to arms dealing as a source of hard currency. Ukraine does not manufacture small arms, but it inherited huge stockpiles after it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Many of these were sold in the black market. Poorly paid soldiers “lost” their weapons, and some commanders were caught selling off entire military installations  (Read: Cashing in on Illegal Arms).

According to a parliamentary inquiry, in the period 1992-1998, Ukraine lost US$32 billion in military assets. With the decade-old experience of black marketing weapons and thriving grey markets, why Drones, Switchblades, IFAKs, body armour, helmets and the like are not reaching the Ukrainian soldiers (as described by Andy Milburn above) is easy to understand. 

Thousands of tons of humanitarian aid also is stolen and ends up in the grey market. In September 2022, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) found that the head of the Office of the President, Andrey Yermak and his officials organized the theft of 22 sea containers, 389 railway cars, and 220 trucks over six months; “selling” the contents in supermarkets owned by partners in corruption who have  “conveniently’ found asylum in Vienna. This may be just tip of the iceberg and obviously Zelenskyy is getting a fat cut from all the corrupt practices, including from those organized by the Office of the President. This is perhaps the reason behind his demonstrated arrogance, indifference to millions of Ukrainian refugees, thousands of his countrymen getting killed in the war, and refusal to negotiate ceasefire with Russia – much to the glee of the US.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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