Kremlin-impoverished Ukraine may be too costly for West
Besides imposing sanctions against Russia, Washington must also “bolster Ukrainians as they struggle to build a new, reform-minded government while continuing to fight to maintain their country’s territorial integrity,” reads op-ed titled “Investing in Ukraine’s Future” by former American ambassadors to Kyiv John E. Herbst, Steven Pifer and William B. Taylor Jr., published in the New York Times on December 29, 2015.
With Ukraine’s economic output having shrunk by a quarter, the currency sharply devalued and a population fearful of an uncertain future, Ukraine is teetering on the brink, while Russia leverages gas supplies, coal shipments and debt repayment to attempt to extract concessions from a Ukrainian government that is still battling Russian proxies violating the Minsk-2 ceasefire, according to the article.
“Appropriately funding efforts to improve Ukraine’s stability is a down payment on Europe’s collective security,” the authors say. “Russia’s land grab in Crimea violates the very security architecture — including the Helsinki Final Act responsible for establishing the inviolability of Europe’s national borders... But the durability of this system depends on the West’s willingness to defend it. Failing to do so signals to both adversaries and allies that agreements among nations simply do not matter.”
Read alsoUkraine’s economy to slowly rebound in 2016, reoriented toward West: Stratfor$3 billion to $4 billion in conditional support from the West, is insufficient, the authors believe, adding that the U.S. should provide an additional $2 billion to $5 billion in economic support and persuade the European Union to make a similar commitment for a total of $10 billion, “the optimal amount of support to allow Ukraine’s government room to maneuver.”
The authors believe that there is a $5 billion minimum threshold of western assistance to Ukraine to ensure the the country’s viability that “can sustain its nascent reform effort and withstand a persistent campaign of economic sabotage by Russia.”
“This grand aid package could include loan guarantees, direct budget support grants and debt swaps, as well as assistance to support reforms in key sectors, like banking, energy and the judiciary. It could also be used to encourage investment in Ukraine,” reads the article.
Recognizing corruption as one of the main challenges in providing economic support to Ukraine, the authors stress that the seeds of accountability of the Ukrainian authorities have been planted, and “Ukraine’s robust civil society ensures a steady supply of nurturing sunlight.”
Read alsoGen. Wesley Clark: West should arm Ukraine“A new Ukraine was born in the Maidan, but the United States and Europe have thus far failed to make an adequate commitment to its success.” the article says. “That must change.”
“A global order based on rule of law is at stake. Defending it cannot be done on the cheap. For the West, a Ukraine impoverished by Kremlin aggression will be far more costly,” the authors conclude.