Extend US Leadership on Ukraine to Post-War Reconstruction Too

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who took the security risk to come to Washington for meetings with President Joe Biden and lawmakers, reassured yesterday at a joint session of Congress that “your money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible manner.” Earlier today, at a joint press conference with Zelensky after their meeting, Biden told him, “It is important for the American people and the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s struggle and the need to continue to stand together until 2023.”

Congress urgently needs to authorize funding to help Ukrainian forces fight Russia militarily next year, support the country’s wartime finances and provide humanitarian aid through the fighting. But money is not the only thing needed to protect democracy from autocracy. American global leadership is also essential beyond the realm of security assistance. Extensive preparation is now underway among G7 donors to begin planning for Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. This should include an American appointment to lead the coordination of this long-term effort to rebuild Ukraine as a modern European democracy—an example to the world of resilience and progress in the face of adversity.

The sprawling federal spending bill unveiled by Senate leaders this week includes $44 billion to help Ukraine deal with Russia’s invasion. This covers $9 billion to support the Ukrainian military, more than $11 billion to restock American weapons sent to Ukraine, more than $13 billion to provide economic support to the Ukrainian government, and more than $2 billion to provide housing and job training for refugees. This would bring the total amount of US aid to Ukraine since the start of the war to more than $100 billion.

The Europeans were not idle either. The European Union and its member states committed to 51.8 billion euros in 2022, and 18 billion euros for 2023, and perhaps more will come. In addition, European countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have spent an estimated €26.6 billion to integrate millions of Ukrainian refugees, and Europe more broadly has spent €705.5 billion since September 2021 to address acute energy. A continent-wide crisis – a burden that American taxpayers should not bear.

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The burden-sharing equation will tilt even more towards Europe when it comes time to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine: in addition to other sources of money, such as the potential seizure of Russian assets or donations from the private sector, EU taxpayers will have to foot the bill. of the bill for the reconstruction and Europeanization of the economy of Ukraine. While the United States will continue to have a geopolitical interest in helping Ukraine establish itself as a modern European democracy, the EU’s commitment to making Ukraine a member of the club will make every other member state, even the poorest, a donor to Ukraine. , their future country.

Thus, it makes sense that European leaders were in the driver’s seat when it came to planning the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz hosted a major international conference on Ukraine’s recovery in Berlin in October. (Two of the authors, Eisen and Klein-Brockhoff, participated as experts.) Last week, under Germany’s caretaker presidency, the G7 announced the creation of a multi-agency coordination platform to align international donors around “the repair, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Ukraine.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arranged for the European Commission, together with Ukraine, to provide the staff secretariat for this donor coordination platform, and invited countries to send liaison officers and other staff to the secretariat. Also last week, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the “Standing with the Ukrainian People” conference, which resulted in pledges of one billion euros to help Ukraine during the winter.

But despite American leadership on security assistance, including as evidenced by the fact that Washington was the destination of Zelensky’s first foreign visit since the full-scale invasion of Russia began in February, the US has not been conspicuously involved in any of this post-war-funding planning. Both in Berlin and at the conference Similarly on the subject of the reconstruction of Ukraine in Lugano, Switzerland, in July, where Ukraine was represented by a delegation of 90 people and several heads of state from the member states of the European Union were present, the delegation of the US government never appeared on the stage and did so. Exclude cabinet level officials.

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The meltdown in Washington made sense in the first months of this reconstruction effort, allowing the Europeans to begin taking ownership of the process and the G7 to announce the donor coordination platform. But now that all this has happened, it is time for the Americans to take a more active part in the reconstruction of Ukraine.

The best way for the Biden administration to join and shape this effort would be to get the G7 to appoint a prominent American to lead the donor coordination platform. This was a key point in the recovery plan recommended by the German Marshall Fund of the United States in September and considered by the G7. The following correlations in the coming years could be European, reflecting the increasing commitment and responsibility of the European Union as the process progresses towards Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. But starting with a prominent American would provide the strong global leadership needed to forge the true international coalition of donors that would be required to raise the vast sums needed to build Ukraine back better.

One option would be to identify an official who served in a Republican administration, which would be an effective way to get the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to buy into the reconstruction of Ukraine over the next two years. A conservative appointee can speak with authority about how reconstruction funds are spent and provide transparency and accountability in projects most important to US national security interests.

Ideally, that person will also have strong civil society and anti-corruption ties. The reason for this is that the credibility of their promises to the American taxpayers and the prospects of Ukraine joining the European Union require raising civil society and prioritizing anti-corruption in the reconstruction process. On several occasions over the past eight years, when Ukrainian officials have strongly resisted the implementation of anti-corruption reforms, US officials – including then-Vice President Biden – have had to insist on maintaining conditionality more strongly than EU officials have been willing to do on the matter. their. And two of us explained that without strong integrity protections, history teaches us that large amounts of aid money flowing in will create the risk that it could be wasted, undermining effective reconstruction. All of this is the ultimate responsibility of the donor coordination platform.

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Speaking at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday, Zelensky thanked the United States for its global leadership in support of Ukraine. Time and time again, America has proven that it can build and sustain global coalitions. It can convince and entice others. Now, in a moment of urgent need, it is time to do it again. The way to go about it is for Congress to enact Ukrainian security assistance and for the Biden administration to have the G7 choose an American to coordinate funding for the reconstruction of Ukraine. The next steps are key for the US and its allies to help Ukraine continue to win the war and prepare to win the peace.

Photo: U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022. Biden told the Ukrainian leader after a meeting at the White House on Wednesday that Ukraine “will never stand alone.” Ukraine’s struggle is part of something much bigger,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Zelensky by his side, pledging that the US would support “Russian aggression” “as long as it takes.” (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)


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