As NATO begins its annual summit on Tuesday, officials at the US State Department have said that Ukraine may not be granted entrance to the alliance due to corruption.

A representative from the US State Department told The Telegraph, “We want to talk about additional steps that need to be taken, particularly in the area of anti-corruption.”  The statement echoes the position President Joe Biden repeated last month, when he said he was “not prepared to support the NATO-ization of Ukraine.” He further clarified an interview with TIME magazine: “I spent a month in Ukraine when I was a Senator and Vice President. There was significant corruption. There was a circumstance that was really difficult.”

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In 2023, the NATO-Ukraine Council was established, allowing representatives from Ukraine to sit alongside NATO members as equal participants. The council held its first meeting at the Vilnius summit, where they also released an official statement saying: “Ukraine’s future is in NATO. We reaffirm the commitment we made at the 2008 Summit in Bucharest that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.” The topic of Ukraine joining NATO will be in conversation as NATO leaders meet in Washington, DC this week, according to the Defense Department.

In Transparency International’s 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranked 104th among 180 countries. In April, Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Oleksander Solskyi was arrested under suspicions that he ran an organized crime group and illegally obtained land in the country. In 2023, it was noted that sales of luxury cars were rising in Ukraine, despite it having a depressed war-time economy.

Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Tucker Carlson criticized the corruption of Ukrainian officials in a December 2023 interview.

Corruption has been a notable feature of former Soviet Bloc countries since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine is no exception to this trend. A 2015 USAID report found that “Corruption is undermining Ukraine’s commitment to democratic governance and rule of law, ability to implement economic reform, and efforts to restore peace throughout its internationally recognized borders.”

Ukraine has received almost $300 billion in international aid since the war began in 2022, leading many to question how much is going to the pockets of corrupt officials. While the scale of corruption in modern Ukraine is unclear, Ukraine’s history of corruption suggests it is significantly present today.

Under article five of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in 1949, all members must engage in warfare if one is attacked: “The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all,” it reads. If Ukraine is ultimately granted NATO membership, this could mean a more direct escalation of conflict between the US and Russia. 

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