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Trump’s Ukraine Defense Sparks Questions About Mixing Aid with Politics (Devex)

November 1, 2019

From the article:

"...'To say across the board that aid is used as a political tool is a real misnomer,' said Sarah Margon, foreign policy director at the Open Society Foundations. 'Aid to people is very different than aid to governments.'

The distinction between which resources should and should not be used for transactional purposes has broken down in recent decades, Natsios said. He explained that in the 1990s, when USAID saw steep budget cuts, money from the State Department’s 'Economic Support Fund,' which is typically more political in nature, was earmarked to support broader development programs which would usually be funded from USAID’s 'Development Assistance' account.

'If you’re going to use it for transactional purposes you should not earmark it, and let the State Department use that money for transactional purposes for diplomatic negotiations,' he said.

'Now, whether they should be used in the case of Ukraine is a different question,' Natsios said.

In this case, even though the aid was security assistance to the government, its purpose was to help Ukraine defend itself from an imminent threat posed by Russia.

'In the case of Ukraine, the country is threatened by Russia, and in my view there is no other issue that is more important than that. The president making any aid conditional, however legitimate the purpose would be, is not acceptable, because it’s putting the country at risk to Putin’s Russia,' he said.

Parallel agenda

For others, the basic premise of Mulvaney’s argument fails to hold up, because they argue the president was not actually trying to achieve a legitimate policy goal. Unlike the president’s suspension of assistance to Central America, which was consistent with a broader administration priority, the suspension of aid to Ukraine was part of a personal, parallel agenda that operated outside official policy channels, said Jeremy Konyndyk, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and former director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance..."

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Senior Policy Fellow