A Marshall Plan for Ukraine Must Come with a Regional Vision
Despite a divergence of opinions and approaches to the plan, collective efforts are now focusing on its design and implementation. Ukraine needs a coordinated effort of to help its recovery—and a recent paper by the German Marshall Fund has put forward proposals to this end—yet focusing solely on the country is not enough. The rebuilding of its economy needs regional stability too and would be catalyzed by greater regional prosperity.
A look back at the Marshall Plan reveals a truly wide vision: it was designed to assist the economic recovery of many European countries and to foster the stability needed for their democratic institutions to survive. There is something to learn from history.
Ukraine’s recovery relies on strengthening economic cooperation with countries in the region, at the very least in the field of commercial transportation, as the grain crisis has showed.
Parallels with the post-Second World War world as well as specific current events make the case for a regional approach to recovery. To recover, Ukraine needs to be secure and this can only be achieved through cooperation with and the involvement of countries in the region, which include NATO members and partners. The permanent presence of NATO forces and equipment in member countries is, and should remain, the main pillars of security in the region and in Ukraine. Ensuring freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and limiting Russia’s anti-access/area denial ambitions through the maritime presence of littoral states that are NATO members and partners is not only a military imperative but also, as recent events demonstrate, one for international food security.
Ukraine’s recovery relies on strengthening economic cooperation with countries in the region, at the very least in the field of commercial transportation, as the grain crisis has showed. With navigation in the Black Sea limited, Ukrainian products currently reach their Western European destinations by road or railway, through Poland and Romania, or by a combination of railway and sea, through Romania’s port of Constanta. As the Romanian and Polish authorities have repeatedly signaled, serious investment is needed to adapt and upgrade railway and road infrastructure. It is realistic to expect navigation in the Black Sea to be limited in the medium term at least, and hence alternate routes for exporting Ukrainian products must be developed in the region. For example, a discussion about the commercial potential of the Danube River would be in order.
For any Marshall Plan for Ukraine to succeed, it must aim not only at the country’s economic recovery, but at a stable and secure region.
Ukraine’s energy diversification also requires strong cooperation with neighboring countries; in particular, to move away from dependence on Russian gas. Now connected to the European electricity grid, Ukraine receives 2,000 megawatts per day from Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. It also relies on reverse gas flows from these three countries and supplements its gas imports with US liquefied natural gas shipped to Świnoujście, Poland. The faster these countries develop alternate sources of gas, build interconnectors, and strengthen their energy cooperation, the sooner Ukraine and the region will be energy-independent from Russia.
The sustainable reconstruction of Ukraine can be achieved only through good governance that ensures transparency in the design of projects and use of funds. Among the prerequisites for this are a vibrant civil society and a strong media that monitor governmental actions and substantially contribute to limiting Russian malign influence. For the latter objective too, a regional approach is imperative, as all countries in the region are heavily exposed to Russian attempts to stoke historical animosities or conflicts with the goal of destabilization. A strong Ukrainian civil society would benefit from cooperating with strong regional counterparts, as it has in the past, to develop solid joint projects—for example, for the repatriation of Ukrainian refugees from countries in Central Europe.
Last but not least, it would be a strategic mistake if Ukraine’s recovery did not include the goal of a positive impact on Moldova through stronger cross-border cooperation in all of the aspects mentioned above. An unstable and insecure Moldova would be a serious obstacle to the stability that is needed for Ukraine to prosper.
For any Marshall Plan for Ukraine to succeed, therefore, it must aim not only at the country’s economic recovery, but at a stable and secure region.
A Marshall Plan for Ukraine
Amid Russia's war on Ukraine, the German Marshall Fund of the United States provides insights, commentary, and analysis on a Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction through the spirit of the Marshall Plan.