What might Ukraine look like after the war concludes?
The ongoing invasion will reshape the country’s infrastructure, economy, and culture. As foreign governments and organizations flood Ukraine with money, the leadership in Kyiv will need to think strategically about how it will remake itself in an era where fighting either permanently or temporarily stops. While the conflict in Ukraine is devastating, the injection of funding into the country will provide the opportunity for the administration to address some longstanding systemic issues.
Videos of decimated Ukrainian homes, businesses, and cultural institutions have been flooding our news feeds for the last eight weeks. Rebuilding this infrastructure will require more than just an inconceivable sum of money; it will also need an intricate ecosystem of institutions that will support the reconstruction. The government has already undertaken the herculean task of estimating the cost of damages, but diagnosing the destruction is only the beginning. Ukraine has a notoriously bureaucratic application system for building permits, a lack of lenders offering mortgages, and an inefficient real estate market. Zelenskyy will need to find ways to address these issues if he plans on procuring investments from domestic and foreign financiers.
If Ukraine can successfully cultivate a supportive environment to guide its reconstruction, then there is the possibility for an economic boom. Ukraine is lacking in new home development, with only three percent of its housing inventory being built after 2000. These old buildings are notoriously energy inefficient, forcing tenants to pay astronomical prices for utilities. Therefore, Ukraine should funnel investments in sustainable projects that can retrofit buildings to bolster their efficiency while also revitalizing the real estate market and giving consumers more options.
While rebuilding the country’s physical infrastructure is important, a much more formidable question is: how will Ukrainian cultural and civil life change? Earlier this month, while speaking to reporters, Zelenskyy outlined his vision for the country following the war. He stated that he thinks Ukraine will transform into “a big Israel.” He sees a country that is not an absolute liberal democracy but instead where armed troops patrol supermarkets and movie theaters. For a country that has been invaded twice in the past 10 years, security will likely remain the number one priority.
Israel provides an interesting road map for Ukraine to follow. The country’s defense priorities have manifested themselves in various other aspects of the nation. Namely, the Jewish state has mandatory service for civilians to serve in the military, a strong economy centered around technological innovation, and deep international partnerships. Israel has forged strong friendships with western nations like the UK and the US who share mutual interests in having an ally in the region to counteract foes such as Iran. The west could view Ukraine in the same light with a strong Ukraine capable of protecting itself acting as a counterbalance to Russia’s influence in the area. Security will be the focal point for Ukraine after the war, but the government must be careful to not overlook other crucial factors. Leaders should focus on redeveloping Ukraine’s main pre-war industries, such as agriculture and IT. Moreover, the government needs to ensure that they match the influx of investments with proper safety social nets for the reintegrating millions of internal displaced individuals and refugees.
I’m wondering if, when they rebuild, if they will also take into consideration how the new infrastructure may protect them in the future.