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Ukrainian Corruption, Russian Corruption

Ambassador Mark Green

Ukraine is more than 30 spots ahead of Russia on the 2022 Rule of Law Index.

Some skeptics of assistance to Ukraine have justified their position by pointing to the country’s ongoing issues with transparency, corruption, and rule of law. While American policymakers are obviously right to demand oversight and accountability, there is also broader context to consider.

Corruption has been a concern in Ukraine for some time, but driven by citizen and civil society demands, the country’s leaders began undertaking noticeable reforms before Russia’s invasion in February 2022. As Transparency International (TI) noted in its 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which covers findings up through 2021, “…war-torn Ukraine is one of the few significant improvers on the CPI, having gained eight points since 2013.”

And while the Russian onslaught has had a profound impact on Ukrainian plans and progress, Transparency International notes that the government is still working to improve its record: “Even while fighting back the invasion, in June 2022, the parliament adopted a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and appointed a new head of the office that brings corruption before the courts.” 

They aren’t the only major organization to document Ukraine’s efforts and the country’s sharp contrast with Putin’s Russia. The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, which includes factors like absence of corruption, having an open government, and constraints on government powers, ranks Ukraine 76th out of 140 countries analyzed— ahead of countries like Serbia (83rd), Albania (87th), Belarus (99th) and 31 spots ahead of Russia (107th). It’s even one spot ahead of India. 

Russia’s invasion—complete with military actions, economic pressure, and information warfare—has materially strained governance in many countries—especially in Eurasia. As Freedom House concluded in a May 2023 report, “Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine [has] deepened the divide between autocracies and democracies” in the region. Many believe that one broad reason for Putin’s war is that effective governance from any of his neighbors challenges the political underpinnings of his autocratic approach to governance and economic policy. If Putin were to succeed in his war objectives, does anyone seriously believe Ukraine would become less corrupt and more accountable

The World Justice Project plans to release its 2023 Rule of Law Index on October 25. 

About the Author

Ambassador Mark Green

Ambassador Mark A. Green

President & CEO, Wilson Center
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