Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, speaks to reporters Wednesday on the war in Ukraine in her office at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington.
WASHINGTON — With lawmakers questioning American assistance to Ukraine more intensely than ever, the beleaguered nation is open to more scrutiny of the aid it is receiving to resist Russian invaders, according to Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
“We are supportive of transparency and accountability,” Markarova told HuffPost in an exclusive Wednesday interview. “Whatever additional measures your people would think…and the Congress would need to do, we are open and ready and we are doing it already. Whatever additional requirements would be there, of course we are ready to discuss.”
The Biden administration said this week that it wants $20 billion in additional funding for Ukraine through a special budget request this fall — and it’s likely that Congress, particularly the Republicans who control the House of Representatives, will raise additional concerns about how the money would be spent.
The question of how to oversee the the billions being sent to Ukraine became a top issue in congressional negotiations over the Pentagon’s annual defense policy bill last month, with Democrats narrowly defeating a GOP amendment to create a lead inspector general overseeing accountability efforts. Legislators could resurrect the idea when the House and Senate finalize the legislation later this year.
The U.S. government already has three watchdogs tracking the more than $75 billion in previously approved Ukraine aid, Markarova noted, at the Defense Department, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Those offices are “really doing exceptional work,” Markarova argued. The three inspectors told lawmakers at a March hearing that they have not found evidence of mass misuse.
Still, they conceded that it’s hard to account for American funds and material while conducting what Pentagon Inspector General Robert Storch called “oversight at the speed of war.”
Storch’s office has previously found that criminal groups were able to obtain U.S. weapons sent to Ukrainian armed forces during the early stages of the defense against Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, according to a Defense Department report obtained by Military.com. Ukraine’s security services stymied the efforts to sell and misuse the arms, the report said.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 4th Brigade operate a tank during military training in southern Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on July 18.
Marakova acknowledged Ukraine’s historic issues with corruption. She described multiple ways the country is trying to ensure its past doesn’t jeopardize current support for its effort to maintain its independence, from sending daily reports to USAID and the Treasury Department to supporting activists on the ground who want to hold their government to account.
“Our civil society is monitoring very actively what we’re spending our money on, and, believe me, their criteria towards the partner support is even more strict,” the ambassador said. She added that she this week received a first-of-its-kind report signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other high-ranking officials detailing Ukraine’s understanding of how U.S. assistance has been spent.
As Ukraine’s face in Washington, Markarova is key to defusing political debates over support for the country. She described a strategy for dealing with skeptics that’s gracious but informative, taking into account concerns ranging from Kyiv’s handling of American support to whether the U.S. is taking on too much of the burden of defying Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Some people would be just skeptical and skeptical and we just keep trying, you know?” Markarova said. “I will find as much time for people on [Capitol] Hill as they will have for me.”
U.S. and Ukrainian flags are seen in the office of Oksana Markarova in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9.
In her view, Ukraine’s critics should see that they share fundamental values with her nation: “Everyone understands the stakes in this are much higher than Ukraine,” she said. “ It is in the national security interest of any democracy.”
Markarova highlighted how other nations are continuing to invest in Ukraine, including through a recently announced European Union plan to devote up to $55 billion to the country, and said Kyiv has examined its own budget to mobilize all the resources it could possibly marshal on its own.
“We depend on our friends and partners…the support that we’re receiving right now allows also for people not to leave, for people to stay in Ukraine, for us to have bomb shelters so that kids can go to school,” the ambassador said.
The upcoming fight over President Joe Biden’s proposed new influx of aid will test whether Ukraine’s message is getting through.
“I cannot say that we all are confident and the support ― even when you have it ― it’s given that it’s there forever,” Markarova said. “No, it’s constant work.”