Ukraine has been under attack since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. Indiscriminate bombing and murderous destruction have been the day-to-day reality for the Ukrainian people ever since. At least a trillion dollars will be needed to re-build Ukraine. Where will this money come from? Can Russia be forced to pay?
It ain’t gonna be easy
Before you can re-build homes you must re-build public infrastructure. It’s hard to deliver a load of cement or lumber if there are no passable roads or bridges. For now, let’s set aside the fact there are precious few intact trucks, cement plants or lumber yards.
Both sides have been planting land mines to restrict each other’s avenues of attack and retreat. Obviously, all these will need to be found and removed before one can safely start rebuilding roads, bridges and power lines. The same applies to the Russian rockets and illegal cluster munitions that are lying all over the place, un-exploded.
Amid all the rubble, key engines of economic activity, bakeries, shopping malls, and steel mills must be re-built before Ukraine can reach its pre-war economic output. In an Op-ed piece published in The Economist in April 2022, Ukrainian Prime Minister Deny Shmyhal has estimated the cost of re-building Ukraine at between $600 billion and $1 trillion. Unfortunately, four months later this figure can only be much larger.
War has a cost
President Zelensky has proven to be an astute and fearless wartime leader surely to be featured in future textbooks alongside the likes of Winston Churchill and FDR. His impassioned beseeching for Western wartime funding has alerted the entire world to the horrendous reality of war in Europe. Focusing on the economic impacts of the Russian invasion is another brilliant move by the Ukrainian government because it’s easier to understand the cost of war when it’s expressed in dollars and cents.
The most devastating effects of war: death, war crimes and human rights abuses are harder to quantify because they cannot be calculated. A human life is priceless. The crime leading to that loss of life must be investigated and punished, however, the judicial process can take years or even decades. The fact that so few of those responsible actually get sentenced for the death and destruction they wrought, causes many to become numb to the outrage that is war unless we are directly affected.
While it might seem callous to focus on the economic cost of war when people are dying every day, it’s a hard reality that more people will understand that war is unacceptable in the 21st century if they feel it in their wallets. Governments are also more motivated to help Ukraine achieve victory when their voters feel the pinch of inflation and their economies are at risk due to their addiction to Russian natural gas.
The West has already injected over 30 billion dollars to defend Ukraine from Putin’s illegal war. The 21st century world has a better understanding of the human and physical cost of war than previous eras. I believe that Vladimir Putin and his successors will be forced to pay for the resurrection of Ukraine.