Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said it would cost $750 billion dollars to rebuild Ukraine.
Even if Prime Minister Shmyhal is right that the international community could seize Russian oligarch assets, worth between $300 billion to $500 billion dollars, to pay for part of the recovery, the cost of rebuilding Ukraine is growing with each passing day.
Even if the war ended tomorrow, the other problem is that government infrastructure projects almost always go overbudget. The best example in recent years was Boston’s “Big Dig.”
In 1985, our government told us the project would only cost $2.6 billion dollars and be completed by 1998. The project cost taxpayers $14.6 billion dollars and it wasn’t completed until 2007.
It’s not just the Department of Transportation that goes overbudget.
In 2021, it was reported that the Pentagon’s F-35 program was eight years behind schedule and $165 billion over budget. Republicans and Democrats in Washington have lots of policy differences, but they’re both terrible at post-war reconstruction.
In October 2020, it was estimated that we spent $134 billion trying to rebuild Afghanistan since 2002. In 2008, Congress set up a Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to provide oversight.
In 2020, the SIGAR looked at $63 billion of the $134 billion of reconstruction spending in Afghanistan since 2002. They found $19 billion of waste, fraud and abuse.
Even if we can prevent this war from expanding to a conflict between NATO and Russia, the West is going to have its hands full in reconstruction costs. It is in everyone best interests to end this war immediately.
This is not to say that nobody benefited from the war in Ukraine. It was the same defense contractors who benefited from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to Brown University’s Costs of War project, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost $8 trillion. This includes an estimated $2.2 trillion costs in veteran care over the next 30 years.
Total defense spending in the 20 years following 9/11 has totaled $14 trillion (2021 dollars). At least a third of that money has gone to defense contractors.
From FY 2001 to FY 2020, the top five defense contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman) received $2.1 trillion in defense contracts according to William Hartung of Brown University’s Center for International Policy. According to Hartung, defense contractors spent $2.5 billion on lobbying and another $285 million in campaign contributions since 2001.
To be clear, I supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11, I felt we had to strike back in Afghanistan. I also believed that building a democracy in Iraq was a noble goal.
While I believed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were winnable, the best Ukraine can hope for is a stalemate that could trigger a coup in Moscow. Military defeats have changed Russia in the past.
After Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War, Czar Alexander II freed over 20 million serfs while his Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin reformed the army. His brother Nikolay Milyutin helped the Czar free the serfs.
Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War resulted in the 1905 Revolution and forced the Czar to accept an Imperial Duma.
Those two defeats produced some of Russia’s greatest reformers like Alexander Gorchakov, Sergei Witte, and Pyotr Stolypin.
Russia’s defeat in World War I ended the Romanov Dynasty. The problem for Ukraine is that a Russian defeat appears increasingly unlikely.
Right now, we are only giving the Ukrainians enough weapons to extend the conflict, but not enough to win it. The only honorable options are to either give the Ukrainians enough to win this war before the winter or settle this conflict.
The most likely outcome will require Ukraine to give up Crimea, Donbas and other territorial concessions to Russia or lose even more territory.
In June 2022, 89% of Ukrainians said they oppose any territorial concessions for a peace deal. I sympathize with their position, but it is not realistic.
I say this as someone who didn’t make one penny from Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.
After we left Afghanistan in August 2021, Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Although Putin’s started the war, the defense contractors found a new honeypot in Eastern Europe.
Unless these defense contractors are forced to directly pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction, there may not be enough incentives for Washington insiders to end this war as quickly as possible.
Along with Russian oligarchs, and defense contractors, any member of Congress who has stock in defense contractors, or oil companies, should also pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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