One of the most problematic symptoms of Ukrainian corruption is the influence those with money and power have over the criminal justice system. After writing a series of articles on the subject and its implications for continued aid from the West, I’d like to highlight a chilling event that happened earlier this week which dramatically underscores my point.
Iryna Nozdrovska was a human-rights activist attorney living in Kiev, the capital city. Two years ago, her sister was run over and killed by a drunk driver, who was convicted and put to prison for seven years. When the killer was rumored to be soon freed, due to a quirk in the amnesty law, Iryna mounted a public-relations campaign to stop the man from getting out of jail.
It worked — she argued against the release in court and the judge refused to release her sister’s killer. The convicted man’s father, sitting in the courtroom, vowed Iryna would “meet a sticky end.”
Two days later she was found dead floating in a local river with her throat cut.
“There were stab wounds on the body, on her neck, and on her chin. … It was a violent death,” declared Nikolai Zhukovich, from the police press agency.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called the killing “a challenge to the state” and “a test of our society’s ability to protect female activists and to ensure justice as a whole.” He is right, but Ukraine is failing that test, horrifically. It is obvious that the killer, and whoever hired him, feel no threat from prosecutors and the police. The act was too brazen, too soon after the court hearing, too in-your-face.
When those who have money — enough money to bribe judges and law enforcement officials to evade justice — and have no fear of the consequences, a free society cannot function.
I believe the Ukrainian people want to improve the rule of law in their country, which has never broken free from the decades of corrupt Soviet influence. But that clearly has not happened yet. Corruption is rampant. There are countless examples of brazen defiance of the norms of justice — including car bombings, assassinations and political prosecutions.
Former Georgia President and now Ukrainian opposition figure Mikheil Saakashvili, for all his faults, was right when he said, “If Ukraine does not deal with the corruption problem, it will break apart.”
What is even more scary is that it is just at this moment that the Trump administration has decided to provide lethal weapons to the Ukrainian military. For the life of me, I cannot understand the thought process behind this decision. Maybe it is just the national security officials in the administration are so intent on confronting Moscow and their separatists allies in eastern Ukraine that they cannot see the folly of this action. There are already reports of Ukrainian rocket technology being sold to North Korea. Do we really think that Javelin missiles provided by Washington will not find their way into the wrong hands, as has happened in Syria and Iraq?
Ukraine has its own indigenous military-industrial complex. Why not foster their own weapons development?
I’m all for confronting the Kremlin when needed in order to protect American interests around the world. But given what I’ve seen in the Ukrainian crisis, the Trump administration’s decision seems reckless and misguided. American involvement on Russia’s doorstep in a hot war is a bad decision — period.
I am sure there is a large group of Democrats, neocons and defense contractors who will call me Putin’s puppet. All you have to do is read a sample of my writing to see that this is not true. The bigger issue here is the folly of making the same bad foreign policy decisions over and over again.
What happens when the U.S. Javelin anti-tanks missiles are found sold to a third party? Or, worse — what happens when American weapons are used on Russian troops who are most definitely deployed in eastern Ukraine?
It seems no one has thought this through.