By Heather Kaiser, Anya Parampil and Max Blumenthal – Jun 27, 2023
In the absence of official scrutiny of Washington’s spending spree on Ukraine, The Grayzone conducted an independent audit of US funding for the country. We discovered a series of wasteful, highly unusual expenditures the Biden administration has yet to explain.
During a recent discussion with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, touted her organization’s push to guarantee transparency for US taxpayer funds sent to Ukraine.
“We are involved in funding efforts at ensuring judicial integrity, which is intrinsically important to building Ukraine’s democracy and its integration plans to get into Europe,” Power declared, adding USAID’s work in Ukraine was “also really important in terms of assuring the taxpayer, the American taxpayer, that they’re resources are well spent.”
Even a year into the war, Ukraine continues to build out Diia – an e-government app that gives citizens access to more than 120 gov services.
— Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) February 24, 2023
While innocuous on the surface, Power’s comments revealed a great deception the US government is currently waging against the American public. In the roughly 16 months since Russia’s February 2022 escalation of the Ukraine conflict, the US government has approved several multi-billion dollar spending packages to sustain the Kiev military’s fight against Moscow.
Though many Americans likely believe that US dollars allocated for Ukraine are spent directly on supplies for the war effort, the lead author of this report, Heather Kaiser, conducted a thorough review of Washington’s budget for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal year and discovered that is far from the case.
US taxpayers may be shocked to learn that as their families grappled with fears of Social Security’s looming insolvency, the Social Security Administration in Washington sent $4.48 million to the Kiev government in 2022 and 2023 alone. In another example of bizarre spending, USAID paid off $4.5 billion worth of Ukraine’s sovereign debt through payments made to the World Bank — all while Congress went to loggerheads over America’s ballooning national debt. (Western financial interests including BlackRock Inc. are among the largest holders of Ukrainian government bonds.)
Though it is nearly impossible to calculate the total sum of US tax dollars sent to Kiev, Kaiser was able to perform an independent audit of Washington’s proxy war in Ukraine through a careful search of open source data available on the US government’s official spending tracker.
Kaiser reviewed all the funding allocations in which Ukraine was listed as the “Place of Performance” for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Additionally, she discovered supplementary funds were sent to Kiev by listing Ukraine as the “justification” for spending, rather than the location where the money was physically sent.
Calculating the total dollar amount that the US has given to Ukraine is incredibly challenging for multitude of reasons: there is a lag in reporting expenditures; covert money given by the CIA (Title 50 Covert Action) won’t be publicly disclosed; and direct military assistance in the form of military equipment is not calculated in the same manner as raw cash. The Pentagon recently admitted to an accounting error revised up to 6.2 billion dollars. Despite this, Kaiser submitted a request to the Department of Treasury asking them to disclose the total dollar amount of US taxpayer support for Ukraine. Treasury has not responded at the time of publication.
Though Kaiser was able to search through pages of reported spending, the US government has yet to conduct an official audit of its funding for Ukraine. What’s more, there is currently no limit to how much Washington can send to Kiev.
In the absence of dedicated official scrutiny of Washington’s spending in Ukraine, The Grayzone has produced an independent audit of US tax dollar allocation in the country.
Among the many troubling contracts we discovered was a $4.25 million payment from the Pentagon to a military diving contractor that a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has described as a “fraudulent company.” The US government asserts the payment covered the company’s delivery of explosives equipment to Ukraine.
So how exactly was that money put to use? And why has Congress so far refused to implement any program to track these shady weapons deals?
Unfortunately, the “justification” for contracts like these often consists of just a brief paragraph — or worse, a single sentence. Little little information is available that documents precisely how the funds were spent down to the dollar and item.
Beneficiaries of USAID’s Ukraine aid: Polish NATO lobbyists, a private equity firm, rural Kenyans, a TV station in Toronto
USAID awarded $21.8 billion to Ukraine throughout fiscal years 2022 and 2023, roughly 41 percent of the 53.4 billion it spent during that period. Mysteriously, a portion of USAID funding earmarked for Kiev was sent to Kenya and Ethiopia via other agencies, with the award description stating projects in Africa were “partially funded with response funds and Ukraine supplemental funds.”
USAID sent $4.5 billion to Ukraine via the World Bank to pay off Kiev’s debt and fund various social programs, including government pensions. USAID made a total of $21 billion worth of direct payments to the World Bank in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 (9.1 Billion and 11.9 Billion, respectively), more money than all of the funding Washington sent to the bank between fiscal years 2008 and 2021 combined. The $4.5 billion allocated for Ukraine funded programs directed by the bank’s International Development Association and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
USAID supplied a $1 billion grant to the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to subsidize projects “Ukraine cannot fund at this time.”
USAID has supplied $20 million to “Miscellaneous Foreign Awardees” since February 2020. Recipients include a Polish think tank called the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, a Toronto-based Ukrainian TV channel, a collection of Ukrainian “anti-corruption” organizations, and other groups listed in the screenshot below. These awards were issued on top of $26 million worth of funds USAID sent these groups between 2016 and the February 2022 war escalation.
USAID allocated $500,000 for the Casimir Pulaski Foundation in 2023 to fund a program dedicated to “advanc[ing] U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance” in Ukraine. The funds were earmarked “to strengthen the International Center for Ukrainian Victory (ICUV) initiative in implementing international advocacy campaigns to keep high levels of international solidarity with Ukraine.”
USAID’s support arrived on top of a $74,788 subaward the State Department granted to the Casimir Pulaski Foundation in June 2022 to “build capacity and policy formulating capabilities of the International Center for Ukrainian Victory (ICUV) and assisting Ukrainian civil society based in Poland.”
According to their own so-called “Peace Manifesto,” the ICUV’s top priority is to admit Ukraine into NATO, a move that former US diplomats from George Kennan to Jack Matlock to Henry Kissinger and even current CIA director William Burns have described as a major provocation against Russia.
USAID sent $3 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2022 “to improve health outcomes in drought affected areas in Ethiopia.” The description stated, “partially funded with response funds and Ukraine Supplemental Funds.”
USAID sent 30.9 million to Chemonics International, Inc. for the “Ukraine confidence building initiative (UCBI).” A private, for-profit aid contractor, Chemonics was founded by a businessman who said he launched the company to “have my own CIA.” The Grayzone has documented Chemonics’ role in delivering US government funding and supplies to the Syrian White Helmets, which served as the propaganda wing of the Al Qaeda-tied armed opposition. Chemonics previously reaped a massive windfall from the US occupation of Afghanistan, raking in as much as $600 million from USAID.
USAID sent $20.7 million to PACT, INC. for “USAID Ukraine’s public health system recovery and resilience activity and will strengthen the Government of Ukraine (GOU) capacity to address COVID-19 and other public health threats, sustain health services during a crisis, and protect the health of all Ukrainians including vulnerable and marginalized populations. According to its 2022 impact statement [PDF], “In Ukraine, Pact’s work empowers citizens to push for transparent and democratic governance, advances gender equality and human rights for women and girls, and accelerates efforts to achieve HIV epidemic control.” The contractor’s work contributed to “172 people increas[ing] their net income,” according to Pact.
USAID sent $25 million to Horizon Capital Growth Fund IV, a “leading private equity firm in emerging Europe, via the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), “to back high-growth tech and export-oriented [Small and Medium Sized Enterprises] succeeding globally, based on platforms in Ukraine and Moldova.”
USAID sent 7.6 million to UNICEF IDA for emergency nutrition response in ASALs (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) in Kenya. The description stated, “partially funded with response funds and Ukraine Supplemental Funds”
USAID sent $1.2 million to University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. located in Atlanta, GA to “support humanitarian information management through geographic information systems, data analytics and visualizations”. Ukraine was listed as the place of performance.
The Pentagon sponsors diving contractor with “history of fraud” to send mysterious explosives to Ukraine
The Department of Homeland Security sent 5.48 million to Gravois Aluminum Boats LLC on June 8, 2021 for the following purpose: “PROCUREMENT OF TWO 38-FOOT FULL CABIN RESPONSE BOATS, FOUR 38-FOOT CENTER CONSOLE RESPONSE BOATS, TRAILERS, SPARE PARTS, AND TRAINING AS REQUIRED UNDER FMS LOA DB-P-LCL FOR THE COUNTRY OF UKRAINE.”
The Department of Defense has transferred 4.75 Million to Atlantic Diving Supply, Inc. as of February 3, 2023 for “PRO SAPPER AND EOD EQUIPMENT [CONTRACTING SQUADRON] UKRAINE” and “Marine lifesaving and Diving Equipment.”
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and sapper equipment is exclusively used to blow things up or clean up explosives. And Atlantic Diving Supply is a military contractor originally founded to provide tactical gear to Navy SEAL divers.
When a company like this is tasked with a highly specific delivery of explosives gear to any foreign nation, including Ukraine, it should prompt questions about the mission, particularly when US intelligence is blaming Ukraine’s military for attacking the Nord Stream pipelines without the knowledge of President Volodymyr Zelensky. (The payment date does not necessarily correlate with the date of delivery from the vendor; in other words, the equipment could have been delivered at a prior date.)
Luke Hillier, the founder of Atlantic Diving Supply, paid a $20 million settlement in 2019 to resolve charges that he defrauded the Pentagon by falsely claiming his company was a small business. Atlantic Diving is consistently listed as one of the top 25 largest military contractors in the country.
THREAD: A controversial "small business" just won a $33B DoD contact, despite what a senator calls "a known history of fraud." A new @POGOwatchdog investigation into Atlantic Diving Supply, Inc. https://t.co/kinpwb7O9l with @schwellenbach @adamzagorin
— Jason Paladino (@jason_paladino) February 18, 2021
In 2021, Hillier raked in a massive $33 billion contract under the same program, prompting fresh accusations of fraud. This pattern of malfeasance prompted a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to bluntly denounce Atlantic Diving as a “fraudulent company.”
Hillier currently owns a $13 million mega-yacht in the Cayman Islands, $24 million worth of beachfront property in Hawaii, and two Bahamas-based companies with murky operations, according to the Project on Government Oversight.
The Department of Defense has paid 4.9 Million to BAE Systems GCS International as of September 12, 2022 for “UKRAINE LCS LW 155 SPARES” and “guns over 155mm through 200mm”. In Navy terminology, LCS means “Littoral Combat Ship,” while LW refers to the lightweight gun. And “155 SPARES” refers to the gun mounted on the ship’s main battery off the bow.
So what is the exact purpose of the LCS LW 155mm gun spares, why were they given to Ukraine, and where are they now? Is there a tracking mechanism in place to know where they are and how they’re being used?
Washington funnels cash to a private equity firm, Georgian finance corporation, a ‘private entrepreneur’ via Ukraine aid
US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) sent $25 million to Horizon Capital Growth Fund IV, a “leading private equity firm in emerging Europe, “to back high-growth tech and export-oriented [Small and Medium Sized Enterprises] succeeding globally, based on platforms in Ukraine and Moldova.”
US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) sent $1.5 million to the Gazelle Fund LP, another private equity firm, to relocate Ukrainian businesses to Georgia. Georgia does not border Ukraine, nor is it a primary location for Ukrainian refugee resettlement.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent $882,291 to a single individual described as an “private entrepreneur” in exchange for “overseas technical assistance program support services.” The private entrepreneur listed, Igor Lavreniuk, serves as the Program Coordinator for USAID’s Competitive Markets Program according to his LinkedIn.
The National Science Foundation sent 1.3 million to University of Illinois for faculty and curricular development in remote sensing. The place of performance is listed as Ukraine.
The Department of State has paid 8.3 million to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to help “refugees from Ukraine meet their essential needs during initial displacement.” According to SpendingUS.gov, Catholic Relief Services is listed as having received a total of 657 million from the State Department in 2021, 5.7 billion since 2008 and 670 million during the last 12 months.
Sponsoring “democracy” at Americans’ expense
Along with the blowback from their government’s gratuitous sanctions policy against Russia and other official enemies, Americans are feeling the impact of this overseas spending spree at grocery stores, gas stations, and everywhere in between. Meanwhile, rising generations are not only struggling with historic inflation, but concerns that Medicare and Social Security will be insolvent in the near future.
Washington and Europe have insisted that the flood of aid to Ukraine is essential to defending democracy against the existential threat of an authoritarian Russia. This framing is designed to shut down all debate by casting anyone who questions the ballooning price tag as fundamentally anti-American — if you are against funding the West’s proxy war with a nuclear power, you oppose the very ideals that define our nation.
Yet our inspection of US government spending in Ukraine demonstrates that Washington has prioritized its supposed fight for “democracy” abroad over the well-being of the American people.
As the war drags on, lawmakers like Sen. Lindsey Graham have marketed military aid to Ukraine in increasingly grim terms. As the senator boasted during a recent trip to Kiev, “The Russians are dying…it’s the best money we’ve ever spent.” Meanwhile, Congress has rejected any mechanism that would guarantee transparency on the billions sent to Kiev, and shunned a war powers debate over the US military’s presence on the Ukrainian battlefield.
President Joseph Biden, for his part, has pledged that official Washington will support Kiev “as long as it takes.” As the potential for blowback grows from Western pressure to push Ukraine into NATO, and a nuclear-armed Moscow is backed into an existential fight for its survival, while economic powers including China gradually decouple from the Western financial system, Americans can only wonder how much will this war cost them when it is finally over.
Heather Kaiser is a former military intelligence officer and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is an independent researcher and analyst for defense, intelligence, and political matters. Heather earned a bachelor’s in geopolitics from the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned a degree in sculpture from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Since the 2020 riots, she has returned to research and analysis of current events for organizations such as American Contingency and Grayzone.
Anya Parampil is a journalist based in Washington, DC. She previously hosted a daily progressive afternoon news program called In Question on RT America. She has produced and reported several documentaries, including on-the-ground reports from the Korean peninsula and Palestine.
Anya Parampil#molongui-disabled-linkDecember 15, 2022
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath,The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.
Max Blumenthal#molongui-disabled-linkSeptember 3, 2023