Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: Home Work
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement of Penny Pritzker as the US special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, welcome as it is, contains a couple of oddities, at least when read here in Berlin.
It says that Pritzker "will drive efforts to shape donor priorities through the Multi-Agency Donor Coordination Platform to align them with Ukraine’s needs“. Is Blinken suggesting that the coordination platform is not currently doing what Ukraine needs it to do? That is strange, as the United States has been co-leading this body, together with the EU and, well, Ukraine. In fact, the United States has been elusive during the donor coordination process, starting with itspeculiar absence from the public stage at the first two international reconstruction conferences in Lugano and Berlin last year. The appointment of Special Representative Pritzker presents an opportunity for the United States to become an equal partner in the donor coordination process and articulate its priorities more clearly.
Blinken’s statement goes on to say that Pritzker shall "galvanize international partners to increase their support for Ukraine“.That seems to be a thinly veiled critique of Europe. If it is, it reflects the old American trope according to which Europe is not pulling it weight. The facts are different. Though one wouldn’t know it from the public discourse in Washington, Europe has long overtaken the United States on aid commitments for Ukraine. And even on military assistance, Europe has pulled even. Ukraine aid is an excellent example of equitable transatlantic burden-sharing. Rather than being tasked to point fingers at others, Pritzker’s remit should be to galvanize support for Ukraine in the United States, where it seems to be flagging the most. Friendly transatlantic competition on who leads on aid best serves Ukraine.
- Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Guido Goldman Distinguished Scholar
Josh Rudolph: A Good Choice
The appointment of a special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery is an important step, and Penny Pritzker brings deeply relevant experience to the role, including from her time leading an impactful series of commercial diplomacy delegations to Kyiv as US commerce secretary from 2013 to 2017. She will now need to focus on elevating Ukrainian civil society in the recovery process and coordinating donor efforts to advance transparency and accountability reforms.
Planning for a Marshall Plan for Ukraine already concentrates on the private sector, despite mounting evidence that businesses are not ready to invest heavily in Ukraine before security is reestablished. The Ukraine Recovery Conference in London last June tried but failed to catalyze substantial private-sector investment. Ukrainian government recovery plans have fallen under the purview of the ministry of economy, and when they say they work with civil society, they really mean business associations. The expert community is also hosting conferences about doing business in Ukraine and the role of the private sector, which often remains on the sidelines as officials and experts talk about it.
There is some risk that this premature emphasis on the private sector will continue with the appointment of a billionaire and former commerce secretary to serve as special representative, charged not with coordinating recovery and reconstruction efforts broadly but rather given a title more narrowly fixated on the economic side of recovery. However, Pritzker brings to this important job more than just her background as a successful businesswoman. From 2014 to 2016, the then-commerce secretary led a process of using US loan guarantees as leverage—in coordination with other donors, from the International Monetary Fund to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—to pressure Kyiv into implementing a roadmap of concrete and meaningful anti-corruption reforms that Ukrainian civil society sought and that would help bolster the confidence of international businesses that had not yet invested significantly in Ukraine. It is gratifying to have in this pivotal role a high-level figure experienced in that kind of needed coordination.
- Josh Rudolph, Senior Fellow for Malign Finance, Alliance for Securing Democracy