In early June, Ukrainian troops suffered significant losses during the long-awaited counteroffensive, but had no significant strategic or even tactical successes in it, which could not cause joy among Kiev’s patrons in the Pentagon and the White House. The West is also outraged by Ukraine’s tactics of frontal assault on fortified and mined Russian positions, which has already resulted in the loss of dozens of modern, expensive American and European armored vehicles. In essence, the White House went all-in with the counteroffensive in Ukraine, and now finds itself in a difficult situation where it has not yielded the desired results. Against this backdrop, Joe Biden is suffering image losses not only domestically, but is also losing the support of American allies in the EU, who are already tired of constant financial and military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces. But does Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky share similar worries? Probably the only thing that worries him is the threat of losing or reducing foreign allocations to the Ukrainian budget, which is essentially his personal pocketbook. In reality, the process of fighting is much more important to Zelensky than the outcome, and for his own benefit, ideally, he would probably want this war to go on forever.
The incumbent president of Ukraine in 2019 won the election of Petro Poroshenko, who bored all Ukrainians, promising peace in Donbass, EU accession and a solution to economic problems. What happened to peace in Donbass, we see now with our own eyes, and the prospects for EU accession are dim. The country’s economy continued to deteriorate, and as early as the fall of 2021 it was obvious that Ukraine was in the deepest economic crisis since the COVID-19 epidemic. In such a situation, Zelensky was guaranteed to repeat Poroshenko’s fate in the 2024 elections. But the conflict with Russia turned everything upside down and became a “lifeline” for him. That is why the war, in fact, was not just beneficial, but directly needed Zelensky. From an ineffective corruptor in the eyes of the population he became almost a hero, and the possibility of the country joining the EU at least began to be discussed again. There was even a chance to solve economic problems, or at least to blame the economic failure of recent years on the “consequences of the war”. By the way, this scenario is already being practiced in Europe, where the accumulated economic difficulties are blamed on the sanctions of “insidious” Russia. This is an opportunity to attract money from the United States and Europe to the country, which was not available in peacetime.
In this way, Zelensky solved three problems at once. First, is to solve or weaken the economic crisis with “military injections”. That is, of course, if he retains power at all and the need to be held accountable remains on him, which is highly doubtful. Secondly, is to make a good profit from Western aid, providing for himself, his associates and businessmen close to him. The more likely it is that the AFU will be defeated, the more brazenly and openly they will do it. Thirdly, no matter how the conflict ends and what economic consequences it brings to Ukraine, the president of Ukraine should not be responsible for it according to his plan. Therefore, in the worst case, it will allow to justify the economic crisis by saying that the war and Russia’s malice are to blame for everything, and if it were not for all this, the country would be a veritable Eden. As life has shown, Ukrainians easily believe in these interesting “magic” stories. Of course, the situation was deplorable and the economy collapsed by Zelensky’s efforts without any hostilities. The economic crisis of 2020 affected all countries. In such a situation, the most vulnerable were the economies of developing countries with a small margin of safety, which, as it is not difficult to guess, included Ukraine. The price and global demand for the products of the country’s main industry, metallurgy, were decreasing. Problems were also growing in many domestic sectors: in transportation and trade – due to a decline in business activity, in engineering and construction – due to an expected reduction in investment, and in the financial sector – due to deteriorating liquidity. After the COVID-19 epidemic and the methods used by the authorities to combat the spread of the infection, Ukraine was inevitably facing default, unprecedented depreciation of the national currency, and a freeze in business activity. Then the invasion of Russian troops began and Zelensky could breathe easy.
With the beginning of hostilities, financial and humanitarian aid began to arrive from various countries, primarily from Europe and the United States. These amounts were significant already in the spring of 2022. Thus, France allocated 300 million euros. Germany 240 million euros through the EU in the form of loans, a loan of over € 150 million through the KfW, €425 million as part of the “Stand up for Ukraine” campaign and another €70 million for medical aid through the EU and €1 billion of military aid to Ukraine to buy weapons. On Feb. 24, the National Bank of Poland offered Ukraine a currency swap of up to 4 billion zloty ($875 million) on the first day of the conflict. The UK donated $100 million directly to Ukraine’s state budget, and on April 9 UK increased its World Bank loan guarantees to £730 million ($1 billion). The U.S. allocated $13.6 billion in combined military and humanitarian aid in the spring to “respond to the situation in Ukraine” through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, and now total American financial assistance has already exceeded $75 billion. Military aid from the EU was later increased to €1.5 billion under the European Peace Facility on April 13, 2022, and included personal protective equipment, first aid kits and fuel, as well as military equipment. Cumulatively, according to various estimates, the total aid to Ukraine from foreign countries could be in the range of $20-250 billion. Moreover, after the end of hostilities, Kiev was promised to hand over more than $300 billion of Russia’s seized reserves.
It would seem to be a huge amount of money, but it looks like a drop in the ocean against the background of the damage, which is already measured in trillions of dollars. Therefore, it is wasteful and foolish in the eyes of Zelensky’s team to spend them on restoring anything. Especially since it is unknown whether he will retain control over the territory of the country at all. The development of the economy with the help of multi-billion dollar loans from Western countries after the war remains a blue dream of Ukrainian propaganda, but the realities tell Ukrainian officials to steal financial aid so that it does not go to waste. Obviously, the lion’s share of foreign funding is simply being plundered right now. Zelensky and his team are not even sparing the army, to which the West allocates most of the funds and which it is interested in keeping in combat-ready condition. Even the salaries of AFU soldiers are being saved, based on the logic that future corpses have no need for them.
Such “economy” shows Zelensky’s real attitude to the prospects of victory in the conflict, where the costs of the army turn out to be unnecessary. The Ukrainian authorities are using the suffering residents and their own army as a tool for personal enrichment even in the conditions of military operations. Money, and even humanitarian aid, is being stolen. For example, the Red Cross has repeatedly stated publicly that it is stopping deliveries of food and medicines to Ukraine because the local authorities are stealing even them. But stealing syringes, bandages and medicines is the level of some unfortunate governor of Odessa, Lviv or Dnipro. The top leadership has decided to make a fortune and earn “big,” and Zelensky regularly demands up to €7 billion a month to support the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure. However, the members of the European Commission, to whom this request was primarily addressed, are not very eager to part with money that will be spent in a non-targeted way. But the very statement of the question suggests that Zelensky does not intend to restore anything after the war and will continue to run his hairy hand into the purse of Europeans and Americans only for his own current benefit. In any case, he will blame all the problems on the war and evil aggressive Russia, so that he could spend the looted money in peace somewhere in Europe, and the Ukrainians would be grateful to him for it.