Article by: Vitaly Portnikov
Why should Europeans allocate money for the renovation of Ukraine’s infrastructure? The proposal by the Seimas (Parliament) of the Republic of Lithuania for a “new European plan” for Ukraine based on the “Marshall Plan” may seem too ambitious and even useless for the European Union. But, in reality, Europe should help Ukraine not only for the benefit of Ukrainians. It should help Ukraine primarily for itself
The “Marshall Plan” provided enormous sums for the restoration of the European continent destroyed by war. But it was not charity. It was, in fact, genuine selfishness.
The United States had been drawn into two world wars in the 20th century. It was in its interest to prevent the repetition of the past and to help transform Europe into a continent of well-being and mutual support. The results have exceeded all expectations. Today Germany and France — the main adversaries in two world wars — are the locomotives of the European Union and supporters of European unity. It is the countries that were not included in the “Marshall Plan” because of the Soviet occupation, whose citizens have spent decades in poverty and who still cannot reach the living standards of “old Europe,” that are increasingly returning to the past. So was American money spent in vain?
European aid for Ukraine should be linked to the success of reforms in this second largest former Soviet republic after Russia. The experience of Georgia or Moldova does not need to be taken into account. They are small agrarian patriarchal countries whose successes and failures do not offer serious lessons. But Ukraine’s experience would serve as an example for the entire post-Soviet space, including Russia. Ukraine’s failure would demonstrate that this region cannot be reformed, and Ukraine’s success would show that even Russia can be reformed. And doesn’t the West want this?
However, the one thing that the experience of Georgia or Moldova has shown is that without a noticeable improvement in the standard of living reforms decline rapidly and openly populist or pro-Russian forces become popular.
Even if the Ukrainian government adopts all the necessary laws, changes the rules of the game, and creates opportunities for the free development of private initiative, Ukraine with its current economy will remain a poor country for several more decades. And in such a country citizens invariably vote for populists and demagogues. Only if Ukrainians see real changes for the better will they be capable of voting for reformers. And if they vote for reformers, this means that reforms will continue in the country. And if the reforms continue and succeed, Ukraine will provide a lesson for the entire post-Soviet space and advance its transformation. And this means that the border for Western values, democracy, and the free market will move steadily eastward.
Don’t the sensible people in the West want this? And is this not reason enough to help Ukraine ?