The future is often war’s largest casualty. For some 8,000 Ukrainian civilians and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers who have fought to preserve their homeland, the future no longer exists. Nearly 14 million civilians are now disconnected from their homes. The future of Ukraine stands on a knife’s edge; however, a year after Russia’s invasion, there is at least a future to discuss. Moreover, there is a growing consensus that Ukraine’s recovery requires planning right now.
On February 23, 2023, the United Nations called for an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Although Putin, known for his violations of international law, will almost certainly ignore the resolution, it does beg the question of what a post-war Ukraine would look like. As a result of the war, a third of the country lives in poverty, with another 60% at risk of falling into poverty should the conflict continue. The war has destroyed $100 billion of infrastructure and forced 50% of businesses to close.
Marshall Plan for Ukraine?
Given this financial and physical devastation, one may wonder exactly what the future of Ukraine is. Participants during the Davos 2023 Summit discussed that rebuilding the country would require a recovery program comparable only to the Marshall Plan after World War II. With that plan, the United States contributed the equivalent of almost $200 billion to western Europe in aid. A Marshall Plan for Ukraine would cost three times as much as the original and would have to overcome the hesitancy of nations like the U.S. to further involve themselves in the country.
Estimates for Recovery
In September 2022, the World Bank, the European Commission and the Ukrainian government place the recovery estimate at $349 billion, of which around $100 billion is needed for short-term recovery. This includes financing the rebuilding of hospitals, schools, roads and bridges. It also consists of the clearing mines that prevent the cultivation of Ukraine’s fertile soil. In a separate communication a few months earlier, Ukrainian President Zelensky declared the target figure at $750 billion, citing the need for repatriation, humanitarian assistance and modernization.
Commitment to Providing Aid
Although allies are shying away from direct military assistance, international aid is crucial in keeping Ukraine afloat. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) leads the charge, which provided $12 billion in 2022 and plans to augment that support in 2023. This aid goes primarily to health care workers and educators, protecting the future of Ukraine in the short and long term. Additionally, the World Bank provided more than $18 billion in grants and loans for Ukraine as of February 2023, the vast majority of which comes from the United States.
Supporting Ukraine: In the Best Interest for Europe and Beyond
The future of Ukraine remains incredibly uncertain. However, a consensus is emerging that the situation cannot remain fraught when the war comes to an end. A weakened or failed Ukraine is a security threat to Europe and would create a refugee crisis because Ukrainian refugees would have no need to return to their country. As the Financial Times wrote in December 2022, “The potential geopolitical cost of failure is high…The fighting continues, but the time to plan for peace is now.”
– Samuel Bowles