Ukraine must be rebuilt as a fortress of Western values – here’s a blueprint

If the people of Russia look across the border and see a beacon of Western capitalism, it will be the final rebuke to Vladimir Putin

Ben Marlow

CHIEF CITY COMMENTATOR 5 July 2022 •

Western leaders have descended on the picturesque Swiss lakeside town of Lugano to thrash out a “Marshall Plan” to rebuild war-ravaged Ukraine.

The naysayers point out that comparisons with post second world war reconstruction of Europe are misleading given that the Marshall Plan was implemented after Germany was defeated.

It’s a fair point. On the other hand, is there anything wrong with preparing for a day when Putin’s bombs and guns eventually fall silent? It doesn’t mean the West is giving up the fight. It can, and should continue to arm Kyiv with state-of-the-art weapons.

But with Russia claiming to be in control of the Luhansk region, the assumption is that it won’t be too long before it takes neighbouring Donetsk too, allowing the Kremlin to claim its strategic objectives have been met, and effectively bringing an end to the war.

That’s not to say that Ukraine should accept theloss of a sizeable slice of its eastern territory.Merely that such an outcome looks increasingly possible. But I see nothing wrong with the West beginning to think properly about how Ukraine will be pieced back together, whatever the outcome of the war. On the contrary, it would be a dereliction of duty to neglect this aspect of the conflict.

One thing is certain: the bill for rebuilding Ukraine will be astronomical – a conservative estimate is hundreds of billions of dollars. Some experts think $1 trillion of destruction has already been inflicted. Swathes of the country lie in ruins with major cities such as Mariupol all but wiped off the map.

An ongoing study from the Kyiv School of Economics calculates that every week, Ukraine suffers about $4.5bn worth of damage to vital civilian infrastructure. At the end of April, Volodymyr Zelenskyy attempted to quantify the damage so far: 1,500 colleges and schools; 350 hospitals and other medical facilities; 1,500 miles of roads; and 300 bridges. Russian troops have also targeted refineries, steel mills, and railways, and grain storage facilities. The physical reconstruction effort will be colossal.

There’s a massive social cost too. Moscow’s invasion has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. The United Nations estimates that 14.5m people have fled their homes. Of those, 6.5m have crossed into neighbouring countries such as Poland and Moldova. A further 8m are believed to be internally displaced. But there are another 13m that have been left stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risk, the UN predicts. That means more than half the population is effectively homeless.

The devastation comes in many other horrifying forms: thousands of orphans, widows, amputees and surviving soldiers with PTSD and other mental traumas. They will need medical treatment, counselling, and financial support.

People are attempting to address the environmental fallout too from a war of this scale. Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Union commissioner for the environment, has called for a component that tackles “the environmental price tag”: forest destruction; vast areas of land carpeted with mines and trenches; chemical pollution from munitions; and contaminated waterways and soil. The clean-up effort could take decades.

The question of who should pay for it and how is perhaps the most complex. Clearly Ukraine won’t be able to afford to, and nor should it have to. The World Bank predicts an economic contraction of 45pc this year in a country that was already Europe’s poorest by GDP per capita, according to the International Monetary Union.

Aid will continue to flow from Europe and America but there will only ever be enough to make a dent in the total reconstruction bill. Besides, at a time of spiralling household costs, there will be little appetite among voters for the West to shoulder the bulk of the burden.

There are calls for extensive debt forgiveness from private lenders. Ukraine has borrowed $61bn from private lenders since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Jubilee Debt Campaign calculates, equivalent to a third of the country’s total economy. Repayments this year alone are expected to top $7bn.

That leaves Ukraine with funding coming from two main sources. Firstly, the proceeds of assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs and Putin’s kleptocracy. Previously thought impossible because of property rights, Canada has been a trailblazer. Groundbreaking new laws have been passed that allow for the ownership of confiscated Russian assets to be transferred to assist with the “reconstruction of a foreign state” whose “international peace and security” has suffered a “gross violation” – in other words, Ukraine. Other G7 countries must quickly follow suit.

Then, there is an additional £234bn of Russian foreign currency reserves frozen in Western accounts that would go a long way to stitching back together the fabric of Ukraine.

Finally, the private sector must play a major part too. An influx of major companies and brands can bring the sort of investment that Ukraine will be crying out for. Imagine the cachet if Google or Apple established a real presence there. This needn’t be purely altruistic. The best way to demonstrate that Russia has been defeated is to create a vibrant new country with a dynamic economy out of the rubble.

If the people of Russia look across the border and see a shining beacon of Western capitalism, then it will be the final rebuke to Vladimir Putin.

4 comments

  1. “That’s not to say that Ukraine should accept the loss of a sizeable slice of its eastern territory.”

    Ukraine might not have any choice, if the deliberate snail pace delivery of weapons to Ukraine is kept up. I believe a lot of appeasers want Putler to claim his victory, which in turn gives them the perfect excuse to do fuck all. The UK and US especially need to pump Ukraine with every conceivable weapon, until they are strong enough to eject the scum.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “On the other hand, is there anything wrong with preparing for a day when Putin’s bombs and guns eventually fall silent?”

    No, there’s nothing wrong with that. For now at least, it gives the Ukrainian people encouragement. It shows that they won’t be left alone to clean up Putler’s mess.
    At any rate, after our victory, Ukraine will be rebuilt, and it will become a better place than ever before. It will be that shiny beacon across the border to mafia land, which will remain being a kleptoctratic-fascist-crime syndicate and shithole.

    Liked by 3 people

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