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Ruslan Vesnyanko: Why do Ukraine’s authorities benefit from continuing war? 

Picture: newshour.ru

Ukraine’s military spending is “a black hole” that syphons off millions of euro every day. Meantime, the army has no money even for winter outfit, as millions go to the pockets of top officials.

Expensive ATO

War tax in Ukraine is collected at a fast pace. The fiscal service of the country has reported recently: Ukrainians have already overpaid the military tax by 14.4% having paid nearly UAH6.4 billion.  The military tax was introduced in Ukraine on August 3 2014 and prolonged for a year in September 2015. Every employed Ukrainian has been paying 1.5% of his salary for “the war.” Elena Makeeva, Ukraine’s deputy minister of finance, says that “military tax will be prolonged as long as there is the war.”

Actually, the budget expenditures on the military actions in Donbass are the highest expenditure item of Ukraine’s budget. War in Ukraine is expensive: the finance minister of Ukraine says nearly EUR5 million is spent on the military actions in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) zone every day. Last September, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk estimated the military spending at UAH80 million. As the EUR rate was lower than, these figures are commensurate.

One should think Ukraine should exert genuine efforts to stop the crisis in Donbass given that it spends millions on it and suffers thousands of casualties. However, it appears that Ukraine’s government seeks peace just on words. “Ukraine’s military spending is a real ‘black hole,’”  says economist Andrey Martynyuk. What the millions envisaged for army is spent on is not clear, as the Defense Ministry does not provide any details on the expenses. Volunteers have repeatedly said that this money will be enough to buy weapons and uniform and to render assistance to the displaced people. This is really big money for Ukraine. Yet, statesmen do their best to conceal the military spending in other expenditure items, so that nothing could be assessed and understood.

From bad to worse

Judging from the draft budget 2016, Ukrainians will have to live off scraps. Analyzing the budget 2016, economist Vsevolod Stepanyuk warned: in 2016, the population should not expect improvement of the living standards.

“Although, the government plans to increase the minimum wages, it is just observance of formalities, given the three-fold price hikes in the country,” the expert says. “In addition, taxes will soar. I am not familiar with the final draft of the budget, but judging from the information available, the defense spending will be increased again. This appears to be quite strange, as there was war in Ukraine in 2015 and the defense spending should have been at the highest possible level already. It is at least illogical to plan more military spending for the next year. This is rather strange a policy which means that Ukraine’s authorities want the war to continue.”

War can be blamed for everything

Volunteers keep complaining that the authorities ignore army. Volunteer Yuri Danilov says the Defense Ministry has not provided the army with warm uniform, though it was to be done yet several weeks ago, given the cold weather and military regulations.

“The Defense Ministry said yet in early September they will start providing uniform sets starting October 1. However, October is ending, but the soldiers still wear summer uniform! The situation is critical at the remotest points of the ‘delimitation line’,” Danilov says. “The authorities fulfill the commitments to the Russian military they undertook during the Minsk negotiations, and forgot about the Ukrainian soldiers again.

Army is still backed with volunteers and patriots who actually fulfill the functions of the Defense Ministry. The authorities have drawn no conclusions from last year’s incident connected with supply of warm clothing to the soldiers. Idleness of the Defense Ministry may have drastic consequences, as frostbite leads to gangrene.”

It turns out that the Ukrainian army lacks even outfit despite growing military budget.

“Unfortunately, an increase in the military spending in our country does not mean an increase in spending on army,” Vsevolod Stemanyuk explains. “Ukraine’s authorities line pockets from war, and an increase in the military spending means that someone will make a pretty penny out of it.”

“Ukraine’s top leadership has learned well the popular expression ‘war is blamed for everything,’” says Martynyuk. “In condition of war, everything can be written off:  outfit, ammunition, shells, fuel. There is more to it than that. One can blame war for the failed economy, split country and impoverishment of the population.

Yatsenyuk’s government has a ready answer to any question: the country is in the state of war! Such fake excuse will not work in peace. In addition, war has tied the hands of the political opponents of the president and the prime minister. They have to contain themselves in such situation.  Given the abovementioned, it is obvious that Ukraine’s government benefits from the protraction of the armed conflict.”

Ruslan Vesnyanko, EADaily’s analyst in Kiev

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