It’s the million-dollar question – or better, the trillion-dollar question: How will Ukraine rebuild after the war?
Damage is extensive to cities across the country, and war still rages. Perhaps as many as 4.2 million residents have left – many with no idea when they will return. The economy is destroyed. The countryside is scattered with mines and unexploded ordnance that will make rebuilding difficult. Then there is the question of money and resources. It will likely take a gargantuan 21st century Marshall Plan backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to put the pieces back together.
Ukraine Rebuild: Ideal Scenario Is Unlikely
Let’s assume Ukraine wins the war, and it gets to issue demands. This means it will receive reparations from Russia for all the death and destruction. Russia would need to allow its leaders to be tried for war crimes and completely evacuate from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea. This would be a full victory on Ukrainian terms.
Whatever the situation when the fighting finally stops, there are European countries that have already planned for the war’s aftermath. In October, the Europeans convened the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction and Modernization of Ukraine. During the conference, attendees speculated on the money needed for Ukraine’s recovery efforts. One-trillion dollars was a number that was bandied about. This means that major allied economies such as the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other G7 countries would have to pony up tens of billions of dollars, plus ample donations by other EU and NATO members.
The other problem is that Ukraine is experiencing historic rates of inflation, which raises the cost of rebuilding. Grants would be preferable, but realistically Ukraine would have to agree to some loans from partner governments and from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Hopefully, international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations could also donate to the cause. The UN has already voted on the need for Russian war reparations. Don’t forget Asia – Japan, South Korea, and China are potential donors. Ukraine could also issue rebuilding bonds that could be sold on the open market.
Americans Need Unity of Purpose
These efforts would take a huge amount of political will and capital. Would the United States, with some critics already complaining about the high level of military aid, be open to granting another $100 billion to $200 billion donation? Ukraine would also need American organizations such as USAID to mobilize people and resources for the rebuilding.
These are the requirements on the governmental side. Ukraine would also need private sector investment, and it is not clear that any corporation is willing to donate money and resources, or to embark on public-private investment projects to build infrastructure like electrical power and water utilities, as well as roads and bridges.
With all of this money comes responsibility, transparency, and accountability. It would take a new umbrella organization to dispense all of the money and keep track of construction projects to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse. This will take substantial leadership among members of the international community.
Schools and Hospitals Must Be Built
Another aspect of the Ukrainian rebuild will be education and healthcare. Will Ukraine be able to fix and build schools to allow all of the primary and secondary school-age children to return to class? Are there enough teachers? What about hospitals and clinics? Are there enough doctors and nurses to staff facilities? Plus, nongovernmental organizations and military support will be needed for internal security, and for demining and unexploded ordnance removal, to ensure people can return home.
These are questions for Ukrainian political leaders to answer as they make decisions on reconstruction. The basic needs – food, shelter, healthcare, and education, to say nothing of the requirements for the economic and business environment – must be met before Ukraine can win the peace and return to some semblance of normalcy. It will need the rest of the free world to achieve this state. Let’s hope there is enough political and social willpower among the various governments and non-governmental bodies to make this happen.
Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.