The Coming Ukraine Collapse and the “Rebuilding” Headfake

Marguerite Yourcenar salvaged one of the finest lines in all literature from the first version of her masterpiece Memoirs of Hadrian: “I begin to discern the profile of my death.” We are approaching that point with Ukriane, not just its military campaign, but also its economy. That baked-in collapse has been camouflaged by the bizarre pretense that there will be a huge reconstruction push, even more absurdly, funded by private sector interests. One has to think that the “rebuilding” patter is part of the cover for the fact that Project Ukraine is a lost cause.

At the end of this post, we are embedding a chapter on the devastation in Russia in the 1990s to give an idea of what the downside in Ukraine might look like.1 Recall that even though the USSR had suffered from underinvestment in many sectors, it still had ample resources and considerable manufacturing capacity. It did not, as Ukraine has, suffer from considerable infrastructure destruction, a fall in its population to half its former level, through flight, annexation, and death in the war, and the loss of some of its most economically developed areas.

The war is now entering a critical phase, with experts now warning of a breakdown of the Ukraine military in the not-terribly-distant future or using formulations that amount to the same thing. Scott Ritter had predicted that outcome for late summer-fall based on Ukraine’s dwindling missiles supplies, but that horizon has been extended by the US supply of cluster munitions, whose use is considered a war crime by many countries.

An indicator of the increased willingness to admit the inevitable military disintegration was coming is the early September article, How Ukraine’s Heroic Stand Against Russia Could Collapse Into Failure by Daniel Davis in 19FortyFive. Some parts of the press are admitting that the much-ballyhooed counteroffensive has failed; others are following official messaging via the revisionist history of claiming it had limited objectives and holding out the laughably false hope that Ukraine might still puncture Russian fortified defense lines and reach Tokmak before the fall mud season starts.

Seymour Hersh’s latest newsletter depicted both Biden and Zelensky as dug in on continuing the war (without mentioning that Banderite guns at the back of Zelensky’s head mean he cannot act otherwise even if he wanted to). But as the saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And there is a noteworthy failure of wishes to translate into improved capabilities. From Hersh:

There are significant elements in the American intelligence community, relying on field reports and technical intelligence, who believe that the demoralized Ukraine army has given up on the possibility of overcoming the heavily mined three-tier Russian defense lines and taking the war to Crimea and the four oblasts seized and annexed by Russia. The reality is that Volodymyr Zelensky’s battered army no longer has any chance of a victory….

“There were some early Ukrainian penetrations in the opening days of the June offensive,” the official [ with access to current intelligence] said, “at or near” the heavily trapped first of Russia’s three formidable concrete barriers of defense, “and the Russians retreated to sucker them in. And they all got killed.” After weeks of high casualties and little progress, along with horrific losses to tanks and armored vehicles, he said, major elements of the Ukrainian army, without declaring so, virtually canceled the offensive. The two villages that the Ukrainian army recently claimed as captured “are so tiny that they couldn’t fit between two Burma-Shave signs”—referring to billboards that seemed to be on every American highway after World War II….

“The truth is if the Ukrainian army is ordered to continue the offensive, the army would mutiny. The soldiers aren’t willing to die any more, but this doesn’t fit the B.S. that is being authored by the Biden White House.”

This outcome is not a surprise to anyone who has ventured outside mainstream reporting to find sources that have been paying attention to what is happening on the battlefield and with weapons supplies. Russia was outproducing the entire Collective West in artillery when the war began, and if anything, that gap has widened. Russia also has the advantage in missile production, has substantially increased drone output, and already had the most advanced air defense systems. The West despite handwaves has done little to increase capacity.

Worse, Russia burning the hodge-podge of supposedly game-changing Western tanks and armored vehicles had been both so embarrassing and effective that Ukraine has been reduced to moving men on foot to assault Russia positions, resulting in predictably horrific loss rates. Alexander Mercouris has correctly called the results a killing field.

As the offensive has quietly slowed down, Ukraine’s support is also breaking down. Even if resolve had held, there was the unanswered question of where adequate weapons supplies would come from and how Ukraine would build yet another army, since by my count, its third is in the process of being destroyed. The idea of forced repatriation of military-aged men from the rest of Europe was a joke, another demonstration of Ukraine’s sense of entitlement.2

But Zelensky’s effort to drum up more money and goodies from the West via his UN and Washington sales effort fell worse than flat. For one-stop shopping, see Simplicius the Thinker in Zelensky’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad D.C. Snubfest.

Zelensky’s visit revealed how the cost of Project Ukraine has become far too high as recognition rises that what would be required just to keep things going is an open checkbook…even before getting to the looming manpower problem. In an attempt to keep the optics up as Team Biden and other over-invested in Ukraine try to regroup, more and more spokescritters are shifting their patter from “Great Ukraine victory when it restarts the offensive” to the new sick fantasy of a multi-year war.

And even worse, European support is also buckling. As we discussed yesterday via Andrew Korybko’s post, Poland & Ukraine Have Plunged Into A Full-Blown Political Crisis With No End In Sight, both Slovakia and Poland have elections soon. Parties opposed to continuing high levels of support for Ukraine have good potential to win. If they were to prevail, it would knock the wind out of the pretense of NATO support for Ukraine.3

Poland in particular has been one of the most rabid supporters for Ukraine, and by virtue of location and inclination, has been imagined to be a source of troops if the US and NATO were to be so foolish as to put their own boots on the ground. Polish president Duda may be pandering to save his electoral hide by standing up to what he depicts as Ukraine’s abuse of the grain deal and describing Ukraine a drowning man that he will not allow to pull Poland down into the drink, even as Prime Minister Morawiecki says no new weapons will be sent to to Ukraine. But some things cannot be unsaid.

Now after that introduction, to the main event of the exceedingly poor economic prospects for what will be left of Ukraine… which is not even known. It’s pretty remarkable to see chipper talk in the West of rebuilding Ukraine, since it presupposes there will be a meaningful Ukraine left. It’s reminiscent of children discussing how much of an ailing parent’s wealth they expect to carve up when the process of dying could well wipe out the remaining assets.

The quality of data about Ukraine is terrible. Western reporters appear to have mainly visited Kiev, which so far has been spared most of the destruction, and only a few hardy souls have gone to the front lines. As far as I can tell, we don’t have sightings of conditions in much of Western Ukraine, save also for the shellings of Odessa. Note that Russia has increased its strikes on Lviv in the past month. So we don’t have much of an idea of how much physical damage has been done.

We have discussed Russia’s selective destruction of the electrical grid. Even though enough was patched up to keep it running, some have claimed that the repairs are glue-and-bandaid enough that parts will probably fall over on their own with increased winter load.

Russia has also been using drones a lot of late and holding back on missiles, which means it could easily rinse and repeat its grid attacks. Since only Russia makes the major components of the Ukraine electrical system, and Ukraine had been some of its replacements from former Warsaw Pact members, more Russian attacks would eventually put large parts of the electrical system beyond anyone’s ability to fix save Russia’s (the West is simply not going to build special purpose factories for the a big blip of Ukraine refitting).

So Russia if it wants to controls Western Ukraine’s future if it sufficiently takes out its power network.

Let’s consider other complicating factors. One is the loss of population, particularly of the working age. As Michael Vlahos pointed out:

However, Luttwak bases his prediction on Ukraine having a population of 30 million. That number comes from January 2022. In an analysis by the think tank Jamestown Foundation, which is connected to the American intelligence community, it is said that the Ukrainian population has today shrunk to just 20 million, slightly more than the Netherlands, but fewer than Taiwan. And of the 20 million, according to the Jamestown Foundation, retirees make up over half: 10.7 million.

Ukraine’s government is now substantially if not totally dependent on Western funding. Federal spending was $35 billion in 2021 and $61 billion in 2022. A substantial portion of US aid was to prop up the government.

And even if spending falls from war-level peaks, Ukraine’s fall in GDP (estimated at 25%, which seems low) in combination with not just an aged population, but now a large number of war disabled, including many amputees, means an increased social burden with greatly diminished productive capacity.

And we have not even factored in what happens if Russia eventually marches up to the Dnieper, getting even more of Ukraine’s most productive farm land, and/or takes the Black Sea coast, turning Ukraine into an even poorer landlocked rump state. The fact that the US is unwilling to make any concession to the key Russian demand of no Ukraine ever in NATO means Russia will prosecute the war until it has subjugated Ukraine, by whatever combination of conquest, installation of a captive government, and economic destruction needs to happen.

Consider what has happened to the hyrina under the tender ministrations of the US:

What happens when the Western budget support to Ukraine dries up? Huge deficit spending. And what do big deficits in combination with a big loss of economic productive capacity produce? Hyperinflation.

Now with these sorry prospects, we nevertheless have the touting of the reconstruction plans, because big private sector names like BlackRock are attached to them.

People like Greenwald are concerned, but not to worry. This rebuilding program is a hollow mandate. The fact that various players might skim some fees while spinning their wheels does not meant there is a prospect of anything meaningful happening. I could go on at great length and may do a fuller kneecapping later. But this will hopefully do for now.

First, those who remember the 2015 Greek bailout crisis may recall that the Trokia tried hawking Greek assets, hired agents, and had planned to reap €50 billion. As we wrote in Look What You Can Buy in the Greek Liquidation Sale!, that figure was wildly exaggerated. As far as I could tell, aside from the sale of the port of Pireaus, the effort was a huge flop. And remember, Greece was suffering merely from a very depressed economy and the related loss of workers with employment prospects in the rest of Europe, as it was nothing even remotely as bad a basket case as Ukraine will be.

Second, by making reconstruction a private sector initiative, governments are effectively washing their hands of Ukraine.4 The most critical parts of Ukraine to rebuild will be the foundations of functioning communities: roads, water systems, bridges. Those are built by governments because they are shared goods. Pray tell, what kind of society would Ukraine have if it ran on the infrastructure fund basis of having only/mainly toll roads and bridges?

Third, the numbers Ukraine needs are ginormous. Even the $300 billion of Russia assets that “seize not freeze” Ursula von der Leyen would like to get her hands on is not enough. Zelensky in July said Ukraine needed $750 billion for reconstruction.

Even if Zelensky were miraculously to get the funding, where would the know-how and skilled laborers come from? Very few Western countries (France and Australia high on the list) are good at large scale infrastructure. But all of the members of the Project Ukraine would want their piece of the reconstruction pie. Imagine the squabbling and the low odds that the best qualified players would get the green light.

Fourth, Zelensky is again selling hopium. Per the Daily Mail:

The meeting discussed the creation of a platform for attracting private capital to rebuild Ukraine. Zelensky also focused on directions of large investment projects in Ukraine specifically in green energy, IT, and agricultural technologies.

All those initiatives presuppose a functioning economy, such as a decent number of high-end professionals and well-functioning logistics. Those are conditions not likely to be much in evidence.

Finally, for an initiative this large to have any chance of success, you’d need to divvy the work among top infrastructure players around the world. Instead, Team Biden threw a US party. Note how far down on the Infrastructure Investor list below BlackRock is. Ukraine’s lead adviser JP Morgan is #78. KKR, which is #4, has strong Republican ties, which is the presumed reason for them not being much in evidence in this effort despite being the best qualified US player:

In other words, the Ukraine tragedy will not be over if and when the war ends. Americans should be embarrassed that we plan to add investor looting to the damage, even though as indicated that is actually unlikely to get much of anywhere.


1 Keep in mind that when the USSR broke up, the members of the Warsaw Pact had been as a whole net recipients of support from Russia (that does not mean that there were not serious economic consequences to Russian industry via enterprises having operated in an integrated manner in Russia and Warsaw Pact countries suddenly being balkanized).

2 Refugees and asylum-seekers are entitled to due process. They can’t be tossed out in bulk. They would need to be extradited individually for draft evasion. That means supplying names to the legal authorities in the country where they now reside. Tell me how Ukraine even would know that, before getting to the wee problems of whether those courts would even consider those cases and how many they could process.

3 Scott Ritter pointed out long-form in an important speech that the Ukraine conflict has revealed NATO to be a paper tiger.

.4 We do have the bizarre specter of the World Bank proposing to launder $25 billion through the Clinton Foundation, which has no track record in infrastructure-building. They do claim to have built “health infrastructure” in the DRC, whatever that means.

00 Death of a Nation
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  1. Lex

    Wasn’t it W. Bush who said, “We don’t do nation building”? We don’t. Whatever’s left of Ukraine will be a festering failed state more extreme than the last 30 years.

    And this is one of the reasons that Zelensky can’t stop the war. All of the problems detailed in this post and more can be ignored so long as there’s active hostilities. They’ll come to the fore even in a frozen conflict / ceasefire scenario. I see this as hugely problematic, especially for Europe, and Zelensky’s recent threats back that up. Nationalists (or fascists if you prefer) require an Other as the target for grievances. Russia will remain that but the people who said, “we’ll support you to the end,” but abandon you are going to be right behind Russia on the most hated list.

    A festering failed state right on the EU’s border seems like the last thing that organization needs or will have the capacity to manage over the next decade. In some ways, the west probably needs to hope Russia takes everything.

    1. Ignacio

      We just have to have in mind what was the real objective of Project Ukraine: destroy Russia. Nothing about nation building. With Russia in focus nobody was really paying attention to what could happen to Ukraine. With regards to the objective exactly the opposite has been achieved: Russia is now stronger, less vulnerable, more united… What a good job by the neocons! Bravo! The biggest political failure of the century… so far.

      1. samm

        “What a good job by the neocons! Bravo! The biggest political failure of the century… so far.”

        Yes, and there’s already been quite an impressive list. I’m so old I remember how Iraq 2.0, Libya, and the Afghanistan debacles went. And all of the above brought to us by those wonderful neocons as well! Geez, makes me wonder where the neocons will fail us all upwards next.

        1. JonnyJames

          Yes, however: They have done a great job for their paymasters: the US oligarchy. Trillions of public subsidies, tax breaks, no-bid contracts etc. have been transferred into private hands by the Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine wars. Congress critters can legally accept bribes (called “free speech”) from the oligarchy and they openly serve their interests. The institutionalized corruption is hard to ignore nowadays. The kleptocratic oligarchy rules. That’s what we call “democracy” in the USA

          Now the financial parasites will strip what is left from the carcass of Ukraine. Nice work indeed.

    2. some guy

      Why would Russia take everything? Why wouldn’t Russia prefer to let a Rump Festerkraine join the West and help spread festerization throughout the NATO zone?

  2. Mark K

    Thank you Yves for this contribution and all the related links that aim to bring the real facts of this horrible tale to a wider audience.

  3. furnace

    It’s a tragedy that whatever was left that the USSR had managed to achieve has been thus ruined after 2014. More and more I seriously think that Ukraine might just be annexed outright by all the parties involved (to Lukashenko’s chagrin, but I don’t think his opinion counts for all that much at the big boys’ table). Ukraine has become a money pit without end, a black hole sucking everything without giving much of anything in return besides fresh new graves. This obviously goes also for foreign “investment”. Ukraine’s fate is Libya’s fate: to become (even more) a market for illicit trade. I can hardly imagine the economy getting back together without gargantuan investments with no strings attached, which I think is a sorely overlooked point by analysts. Even if “investment” were to happen, this is no Marshall Plan or reconstruction of Berlin. Any dollars spent in Ukraine will either be lost or forcefully regained, with interest paid in misery and sorrow. Such is the fate of US proxies!

  4. john

    The idea that a woman coming from the Hotel business, Pritzker, could be in charge of some sort of “infrastructure” project in a foreign country shows the endless stupidity of those “in charge” in the US. The US has dilapidated infrastructure itself….doubtful Pritzker can find Ukraine on a map.

    1. Reply

      Pritzker earned her place at the table with that investment in Saint Obama.
      In politics, if people hang around long enough with the right other people, they can be selected to help out as directed. Qualifications do not enter into the calculation, at least for most objective observers.

      The mention of Clinton and the resuscitation of the Global Initiative could lead an investigator to look for money laundering and other creative approaches. Will nobody rid the world of those troublesome grifters?

      Not a good look in any event. Therefore, expect wallpaper coverage of lies and deflections. Too bad that real people will suffer and die as a result, or as pols would say in their peculiarly impersonal way, collateral damage.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Obama was a Saint? I thought he was a successful (for its creators, among whom the Pritzkers hold pride of place) laboratory experiment. In Vitro Sainthood, perhaps…

      2. N

        The Wikileaks emails showed that the Clinton Foundation didnt have any internal controls, at least for CHAI, which was where virtually all the money was.

        Bill’s college buddy Ira Magaziner kept the accounting records on an excel spreadsheet so I’m sure none ended up in anyone’s pocket..

        Also this was right when Ira funded his son’s political races.

  5. berit

    Thank you, Yves Smith!
    As citizen of NATOstan Norway, I mostly avoid listening to news and reports on Ukraine from NRK TV, the public broadcaster, except last week. Because of municipal elections 9/11 and fall out from political scandals since summer, ministers and top politicians ignoring their conflicts of interest being dismissed. The last and largest scandal involves Høyre, conservative, former PM Erna Solberg (husband investing in many companies, buying and selling shares, example Norsk Hydro and Norwegian Mining, Kongsberg and Ammo not on his list, but on others), while living together in the PM-residence for 8 years.

    Yesterday, listening in on reports from Kiev and the UN, heavily slanted reports, repeating mantras of “fullscale invasion”, civilians killed by evil Russia (called Putin mostly) and the heroic resistance, dwindling numbers of Ukrainian fighting men not specified, neither the few meters of recaptured territory where they go to be killed. Horrid!
    Tragic what we and Europe have become, vassals under US/NATO command. Reading NakedCapitalism, its captain and crew and guests from all around the globe, I take heart anew most days, with sustenance and hope that truth and justice shall survive. Thank you!

    1. Carolinian

      No babies on bayonets? Guess bayonets are no longer much of a thing. WW1 may have been the first mass communication propaganda war and it has reached the point that our dubious global ruling class think that’s the only war they need to fight. Meanwhile the killing itself is mostly the whim of insulated autocratic leaders who, back then, seemed to be members of the same extended family.

      That decadent period seems remarkably like now and a democracy that was once created in reaction to autocracy has declared itself an empire with our own mad King George at the helm. At least we still theoretically have the power to vote this new version out of office.

      Anyway thank you from the report from Norway. NC broadens our horizons.

      1. digi_owl

        think the Vietnam war was the turning point for media coverage of wars.

        Before then reporting was so slow and cumbersome that only massive, often state, channels could really afford it. Like the “venerable” BBC, thanks to the far flung empire and its communications network.

        This made it easy for the state to lean on them regarding the reporting, as seen when the “Spanish” flu hit during WW1. The name coming from Spain being neutral and thus didn’t suppress reporting on the disease that was already ripping through military camps in France and USA.

        But come Vietnam, now a single guy with a camera could do almost same day reporting from the front. End result was that people now got the horrors of war right into their livingroom as it has happening.

        Since then Pentagon for example discourage reporters from roaming independently, and instead push for “embedding” with select units. This seen for example during the Iraq wars.

        1. Procopius

          …people now got the horrors of war right into their livingroom…

          I wish it were so, but it isn’t. You don’t see videos of wounded men bleeding and screaming. You don’t see videos of the civilians who lost everything they owned when a Ukrainian rocket hit their apartment in Donetsk. In fact you don’t even see mention of the ongoing shelling of civilians in Donetsk. You don’t see the results of electric power shutdowns. There’s so much of war that is never reported on. Americans, especially, have no idea. At least the Europeans have a few survivors left who can tell them what it was like. Next time Americans are not going to be so lucky, and the neocons are still pushing for nuclear war.

    2. digi_owl

      Yeah, NRK has really lost it in recent years. Or maybe it was always bad but we didn’t have a way to check on them earlier. The worst part is when veteran reporters of theirs all of a sudden seem to write highly slanted and shallow articles where before they at least seemed to allow nuance into the debate. Or how more and and more of them seem to sell their reputation to the highest bidder upon “retirement”. Not sure if they actually believe in their own output, or if they toe the line fearing being “excommunicated” via social media otherwise.

    3. John Jones

      We also ought to thank the ubiquitous UVDL & her fellow compadres in the EU – I’ve a horrible feeling that the Commission is baking up a whole host of reason’s why Ukraine has failed.

      One imagines that UVDL will follow the Merkel mantra of “more Europe, deeper Europe” & that paragon of military expertise Marshal Macron will push for a unified EU Army Command – that will make the Russian’s quake in their boots.

  6. Louis Fyne

    The conclusions that Hersh mentions has been floating in plain sight among many level-headed, impartial Twitter accounts for months—-using news accounts and social media as sources.

    ….With no access to the US photo, electronic signals, and 3-D radar imaging satellites.

    Where is all the black box money going? on both the DIA (Pentagon) side and CIA side.

    Smells like total institutional and political rot. Disband the entire lot and start from scratch.

    1. Random

      Hersh is very much a CIA guy with those articles.
      We don’t know who his sources are but he always seems to praise the CIA mentioning how they’re so smart and realistic compared to the terrible administration and other agencies.
      So there is obviously some real info somewhere in that whole system.
      It’s just that no one will come out and say it publicly because politics.

  7. Rip Van Winkle

    So what’s Vlad’s move after seeing this Penny Pritzker thing? Prob keep dragging it out as slow and long as possible. People like Paul Craig Roberts don’t get it.

  8. Chas

    Russia will take charge of rebuilding the Ukraine, perhaps with the help of the BRICS countries, imho. Ukrainians will have ample food because they have an agricultural country and they will have ample energy from Russia, plus their nuclear power plants. There are other natural resources as well. The Ukraine may well replace Germany as the workshop of Europe. In a few years Ukraine may become the envy of Europe with an in migration problem. No need for all the doom and gloom.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You assume Russia wants to “own” Ukraine West of the Dnieper. That is not ethnically Russian and would be an insane amount of territory for Russia to hold under duress. It is not in Russia’s interest or capacity to do so.

      And the price tag of $750 billion is also beyond Russia’s capacity. Its total government spending in 2022 was about about $320 billion. And Russia does not run big budget deficits. If anything, that number will increase as the war continues.

      That if you bother looking at a map is also where the majority of land area and at least half the population lived.

      As indicated, Russia may take the Black Sea coast in the end. There is certainly a lot of sentiment in Russia for that. But Putin called Odessa an apple of discord, so he is very cognizant of that risk. And there is the wee problem of the lack of natural barriers north of the Black Sea coast in Western Ukraine for Russia to set an easily defensible line….although it could resort to Surovkin Line 2.0 over a much longer frontier.

      In other words, the cost of rebuilding areas it occupies will serve to curb how much land Russia will want to capture, unless the Ukraine forces really do fall apart and Russia can move its forces in to certain parts of the country that have not been too damaged without doing much more in the way of destruction.

      On top of that, no one but Russia and maybe poor Turkyie have an interest in rebuilding Ukraine. Even as a poor country by European standards, its infrastructure and standard of living are high by the standards of the non-Western world. The BRICS have much more important needs at home. They will never take up Ukraine as a charity case.

      So with all due respect, you have not thought this through. There will be a poor and broken rump Ukraine. How big that is and how broken it winds up being have yet to be determined.

      1. Polar Socialist

        According to Russian Investigative Committee (at the end of last year) the reconstruction of Mariupol, Rubizhne and Severodonetsk will take two years and cost $2.5 billion. Mariupol alone is the 11th largest city of Ukraine. So while it will be expensive, it seems that the Zelensky’s price has some markup for him and his merry men. About 50%, to be more precise, assuming equal damage all trough Ukraine.

        Maybe even more, given that Western Ukraine hasn’t seen any civil war while it has seen some investment during the last 30 years, unlike Eastern Ukraine where Russians have to fix results of decades of neglect as much as damage from the fighting.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Ukraine did not damage the grid in Mariupol. The videos by Patrick Lawrence showed only some shelling, mainly by Ukraine, of residential and central city buildings. I don’t think there were any bridges to take out and I believe railroads and roads were intact.

          In other words, Russia took Mariupol mainly as a clearing operation with the militias, the Chechens, and Wagner forces. They did not resort to massive artillery fires as they increasingly did after the Russian leadership realized how much the West hated Russians and there was not much point in trying to be nice to brother Slavs in Ukraine, save not killing civilians of any stripe and treating POWs well so as to encourage surrenders.

          Look at before and after maps of many of the smaller towns and cities Russia has taken. Quite a few have been reduced to rubble. That was not even remotely the case with Mariupol.

          Consider the mine clearing problem that tegnost mentions below, and the possible need to repurpose (as in cover with concrete) any areas with troublesome levels of depleted uranium use. Again, neither were serious issues in Mariupol.

          So I don’t think you can generalize from that.

          And I assumed the reverse, that the $750 billion understated the actual cost, even allowing for grifting.

          1. Polar Socialist

            All I’m saying is that Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol claimed the reconstruction price as $14 billion at the time. And that only for one city, not three (albeit two of them much smaller).

            According to DNR sources the Ukrainians blew up the power lines and the water filtration system of Mariupol on 2nd March. They also mined the remaining equipment so that the DNR engineers had to clear explosives before they could start restoring electricity and water to the city. Around 12th May (a week before Azovstal’s final surrender) the first city blocks were re-electrified.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Power lines are not hard to repair. Mining the rest as you pointed out was time consuming to clear but did not involve repair/construction costs. It sound like you are mainly depicting time costs, not hard dollar building costs.

              1. Polar Socialist

                This the list of tasks the Russians estimated would take 2-3 years and $1.8 billion:

                – provision for basic needs of the residents for the time of the reconstruction
                – demining of the city and destruction of unexploded ordnance
                – survey of the condition of buildings and structures of the city
                – demolition and removal of debris of buildings not fit for reconstruction (~20% of the apartment buildings) and removal of destroyed equipment
                – restoration or rebuilding of largely destroyed or damaged housing (~72% of the apartment buildings)
                – restoration of the street and road network
                – demolishing and rebuilding four bridges over the Kalmius River
                – restoration of public utilities: electricity, water supply, heating, sewerage, cellular communication and wired internet
                – restoration of public transport, police and rescue services
                – re-establishment of health care, education and social security institutions
                – restoration of the work of registries, courts, passport offices and similar
                – rehabilitation of the city’s enterprises to restore old and create new jobs

                In some areas they are already ahead of the schedule, like the bridges. The first rebuild bridge over Kalmius river was opened 1st of September and the rest are already 90% done.

                If I understood correctly, this is an actual plan for 2023-25 developed by Russia’s Unified Institute of Spatial Planning under the supervision of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities.

                It’s quite likely, though, that the $1.8 billion is just what the Russian Federation is footing the bill for and it doesn’t include the part Mariupol and DNR will pay, nor the apparently generous donations from all over Russia – for example Saint Petersburg is funding the restoration of the Drama Theatre and Philharmonic Hall while also donating busses, whereas Sochi is funding the rehabilitation of the hospitals.

                1. Ludus57

                  This “to-do” list sounds like the needs of much of the UK outside London and the South East after over 40 years of Thatcherism.

          2. juno mas

            Yes, the Ukraine will not be rebuilt for a long time. It is beyond a basket case. It is now a casket case. Nature will find a way to recover the landscape, but Blackrock will not.

      2. jan krikke

        I agree Russia won’t cross the Dnieper, but a neutral Ukraine (west of the Dnieper) could draw in Chinese investment. Ukraine is a junction in the BRI.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          A war zone is not a good place for transit routes. I would not bet on this area being pacified short of Russia creating a large de-electrified zone as a DMZ of sorts to create a big buffer zone to impede incursions and shelling.

          And the US is trying to escalate with China and will do what it can to throw a spanner in any China projects in Europe. The US, having spent so much on Ukraine, will take the position that it can meddle.

          On top of that, Europe is also escalating trade wars with China and making demands that China reduce its trade deficit with Europe, which is set to get worse due to Europe de-industrializing. See for instance from today’s Financial Times:

          The EU has fired a warning shot at China ahead of high-level trade talks, demanding that Beijing make “progress” to reduce its trade deficit, which hit €396bn last year, described by the bloc’s most senior diplomat in the country as the highest in “the history of mankind”.

          The comments came ahead of EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis’ arrival in Shanghai on Friday and amid escalating tensions between the bloc and China, which is angry over an EU anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles and restrictions on chipmaking equipment.

          “China’s trade surplus with the EU last year was the highest in the history of mankind,” Jorge Toledo, the EU’s ambassador to China, told a panel discussion in Beijing on Thursday. He cited a report released this week by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China that listed 1,058 recommendations to overcome what he called “market barriers”….

          Topping the list for Beijing will be the EU’s announcement last week of the probe into whether Chinese electric vehicles were “distorting” the market, which could result in tariffs on the country’s carmakers.

          Many Chinese EV manufacturers, facing overcapacity in the domestic sector, see exports to Europe as necessary for survival. But European carmakers claim lower labour and energy costs give their Chinese rivals an unfair advantage in pricing.

          1. Susan the other

            This makes me suspect that in a twisted way Ukraine is very connected with China in that China out-competes the West and the only way to prevent it is to exclude China from too much access to markets, so that as Ukraine has wound down to an ignominious defeat more and more talk of war with China has controlled the narrative. And this is preemptive. NATO will not tolerate Chinese reconstruction of Ukraine. The West is planning to have a monopoly on it. And all the blitzkrieg in Azerbaijan might be connected too if the agreement between Baku and the Israelis for a pipeline is happening. Just spitballing, but since the Surovikin Line was the proverbial immovable object it might indicate how serious Russia is about protecting its nearby oil/gas fields, which then makes me wonder what capacity the port of Odessa has to be an oil hub that connects to Europe as a replacement for Nordstream and would all the “reconstruction” be paid for with this little gold rush. This entire debacle is begging an explanation.

      3. ebear

        I would argue that it’s you that hasn’t thought this through. The economic costs are only one factor. Russia will not allow a rump Ukraine to exist as a potential future member of NATO. They’ve stated this clearly many times. Russia has been building its military forces throughout the conflict and now has the ability to control the entire territory until a new Russia friendly (not neutral) Ukraine emerges. Bear in mind, not all Ukrainians are Banderistas. Many of those are now dead and the rest will flee to the EU or Canada where they’ll be watching their backs the rest of their short lives. A nuisance factor, but no real threat. As for the Ukrainian military, what remains will be reconstituted under Russian leadership and assist in maintaining the peace. Same as Germany and Japan post WWII.

        Ukraine is rich in natural gas. Prior to the conflict they imported 35% (2017) to make up the difference between production and consumption, however, their population has been reduced by about 40% most of whom won’t be returning (70% per a recent poll). That reduced demand means they’ll be self-sufficient in NG for the foreseeable future without even developing known offshore fields (Crimea). Add to that their nuclear capacity, which likewise will be exportable due to lower demand and you have a positive cash flow element to add to the rebuilding.
        Overlooked in the financing equation is China. Ukraine sits on a major land route to the EU, part of the New Silk Road strategy of the SCO. With Russian security guarantees, Ukraine’s rebuilding will be largely financed by China which needs the food production. Food production is mechanized, so labour will not be a serious issue.

        Towns and villages that have been destroyed will be replaced by newer communities composed of people who never took a side in the conflict, and who blame the catastrophe on US/NATO interference, not Russia. Less than a third of the population actually supported the Banderistas, and as I pointed out, many of them are now dead, and the rest have either been disabused of the ideology or won’t be returning.
        The model you should be using for the rebuilding of Ukraine is Japan and Germany post WWII. Where financing came from the US, in Ukraine’s case it will come from Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

        If you want a model for what to expect in the next 10-15 years, look no further than Croatia, which emerged from a similar conflict and is now a prosperous nation. Ukraine is much larger and has greater resources than Croatia, so I would argue the future looks even brighter than Croatia’s.
        Obviously many things can happen between now and then, so I’m not casting this is stone, but I’ve done fairly well these last 30 years by making such contrary calls and I’m about 80% confident in this one.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I would get that hubris seen to. Your analysis and choice of analogies are poor.

          First, you assume Russia will occupy Western Ukraine. Putin has said Russia will go only where it is welcome, as in can win a referendum for the relevant territory to join Russia.That is not the case with Western Ukraine. In other words, Putin has explicitly rejected occupying hostile territory. Russians unlike Americans have historical memory. The cost of trying to subdue Afghanistan is fresh in their minds, and they are also aware of how being an occupier is corrupting.

          The occupation and subjugation of Western Ukraine would also greatly erode Russia’s soft power. It would lose the moral high ground it has managed to achieve in the Global South despite having invaded Ukraine.

          That is before getting to the cost of keeping 500,000 troops there on an open-ended basis, while Russia is also certain to feel the need to boost it manning for general defensive purposes. Putin is also very keen to keep life in Russia as normal as possible adn not turn Russia into a militarized economy.

          In addition, Putin has voiced reluctance about taking Odessa, even though that would be very well received in Russia and would in theory improve security. And if Russia controls Odessa, it has great influence over Western Ukraine without the attendant problems of occupation.

          Second, your analogy with Germany and Japan post World War II are misguided. Both Japan and Germany had been had strong manufacturing sectors and a large cadre of skilled technical professionals and laborers. Western Ukraine has little of that. It’s skill poor and deeply corrupt. The manufacturing was concentrated in the east.

          In addition, after World War II, the US accounted for about 50% of world GDP. After its brief 1946 recession, it underwent a protracted boom as pent-up savings during WWII and GI Bill home loans fueled consumer spending and investment. The US could afford to let Japan and Germany run large trade surpluses then. By contrast, we are in the early stages of a world of lower growth due to resource scarcity and some retreat from globalization.

          Third, as for your gas fantasy, even a mere gander through Wikipedia show that the overwhelming majority of its proven reserves (as in >85%) are in oblasts in eastern Ukraine.

          Fourth, we are moving into a world of stranded gas and oil assets. Why develop when end use markets will be static or more likely shrink due anti-combustions engine and other anti-greenhouse gas mandates. Consistent with that, in his investor talks, Zelensky has been pushing green energy, not fracking.

          Fifth, there is no reason to assume the section of the BRI through Ukraine will be built. Both Russia and China are reorienting towards deepening their relationships with the so-called Global South and away from an increasingly hostile West. And the EU is in the process of trying to reduce its dependence on China (see: and even getting into rows, as in the US expects the EU to fall in with its chips sanctions and the EU is starting a dispute over EVs.

          Finally, as indicated, why should China invest in western Ukraine when the EU will punish whatever parts of Ukraine Russia controls by refusing to trade with it? In the normal course of events, a country’s biggest trade partners are its neighbors.

          On top of that, as indicated, even though Ukraine is poor by European standards, it is still rich compared to most developing economies. China and Russia closely cooperate but each makes independent decisions. Why is it in China’s interest to invest in Western Ukraine when much of China is still very poor? It would get much more bang for its buck politically and likely economically too, to invest at or closer to home.

    2. tegnost

      They also have unexploded cluster munitions and depleted uranium pollution. This is classic move fast and break things thinking, assuming that the market will fix it later and as of course markets (never) do, better! Ukraine could be the best source of flying pigs…we’re just making the world a better place, never mind the corpses, excellent fertilizer is necessary now that putinia is ostracized from the “civilized” world…

    3. Wæsfjord

      That’s grimly funny, Chas. So the country that started out with 52 million people and a space industry but has now reduced itself to 20 million peasants by its stupidity, corruption and ignorance is suddenly going to get its sh|t together? It’s over, man. The dream is dead. Time to come down off the hopium and face reality. Some car wrecks are not survivable. Especially when the driver is a suicidal,fanatical maniac.

  9. Gregory Etchason

    I expect Zelensky to soon be living fulltime in Miami in his multimillion dollar condo with a seat on the Boards of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin

    1. JohnA

      Or in London, where he have a significant property portfolio and, more pertinently, is reported as recently having been granted British citizenship. But then again, he supposedly has properties in Italy, Israel, Egypt, Florida, and Crimea. Though I doubt he would ever be welcome in the latter.

      1. Benny Profane

        Sounds like he needs a private jet or two. Probably has been checking out Youtubes on the subject in the bunker.

  10. Gregorio

    All one needs to do is look at the U.S.’s track record of rebuilding what they have broken, to realize that this is a hollow narrative. Get back to us after they have “fixed” Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc., not to mention all the countries we broke in the last century, which we did squat to rebuild. The sad fact is that we’re awesome at breaking stuff, but not so good at putting it back together. Taiwan, pay attention!

  11. The Rev Kev

    I really do not know what will happen to the Ukraine after the war ends. The west will just walk away and pretend that the place does not even exist. The population will be less than 20 million and a lot of the workforce will carry injuries from the war which will hold them back. Those Ukrainians outside the country will never come back. Organizations like the IMF and World Bank will discover corruption in the Ukraine meaning no loans for them. The economy will be mostly gone as will any industries. The country will not have the money to pay for what they need and they become a charity case for the United nations. The country will become a sinkhole for he black arms industry and anything else that cane be sold. And the people that led the Ukraine into this mess? They will have gone to places like the EU, UK and the US to enjoy their wealth.

    1. vao

      Historically, Ukraine was un “uncivilized march” where outlaws and people fleeing the then powers-that-be would settle, living a rugged and fierce life, organized in clans, with no central authority. I guess that is what (Western) Ukraine could well devolve to. A bit like Somalia today — poor, widely ignored, split in various autonomous entities, some relatively peaceful like Puntland, and others where war is raging, and a permanent sore for its neighbours.

      1. Ferc

        Each of my dad’s grandparents came to America from what is now Ukraine. They were coming from different empires, from near Lviv and near Odessa, from the Austrian Empire and the Russian Empire. I can’t ask what they think, but they would certainly find it strange that they found themselves “from” the same country.

  12. alfia

    Sobering article by Klebnikov at the end of the post. Where did you get the extract from? Would you know where I can get the electronic copy of the book?

    1. alfred venison

      I just checked, its at Libgen (a great fallback site if Archive fails you). Stick his name in the search box and click the button. There’s one edition listed for download, pdf format, free and nothing to sign up to (they’re Russian, so, what’s the Russian again for “a pox on your copyright”?). You’ll be reading it off your phone in minutes. -a.v.

    2. Sibiriak

      Here’s another excerpt from Klebnikov’s book. It reveals how neoliberal shock-therapy “reformers” like Yegor Gaidar had not only a ferocious hatred of the Soviet system , and a desire to destroy it so completely that it could never return, but also a cold, ruthless hatred for the Soviet people themselves.

      On December 14, 1992, with Gaidar’s reforms failing, Boris Yeltsin named a new prime minister: Viktor Chernomyrdin, the former chief of the oil and gas industry. Chernomyrdin was an older man and boasted a career as a successful Soviet industrial manager. He brought with him a new team: older men proudly calling themselves “industrialists” and “government patriots.” The change made little difference to government policy.

      I went to the former offices of the Communist Party Central Committee on Old Square to meet with one of the key members of the “new” Chernomyrdin team, Yevgeny Yasin. The old economist was one of the “veterans” brought in to correct the mistakes made by the “young reformers.” Within months, Yasin was appointed Yeltsin’s main economic adviser. I had thought that Yasin, as an older man and a representative of the more conservative part of the Russian political establishment, would be anxious to address the economic mistakes of his predecessors. I was wrong.

      “There are no miracles,” Yasin began by telling me. “This country must drink the cup to the bitter end.” He spoke of using the confiscatory character of inflation to realign the economic balance in society. “Over the near future—at least a year—we will live under conditions of inflation and we must focus on those problems that inflation allows us to solve—to establish a more rational relationship between prices, a different relationship between prices and incomes.”

      In other words, Yasin was suggesting dramatically lowering the real wages of the average Russian citizen; meanwhile, inflation would destroy the remaining savings of the population as a source of domestic capital. In the absence of significant foreign investment, where was Russia going to get capital to feed the economy?

      “There is only one method—to tighten our belts,” said Yasin. “We must lower our living standards.” The term “tighten our belts” resonated with the popular sacrifices made by the Russian people during World War II. But this time there would be no victory—only impoverishment and early death for those pensioners whose savings would be destroyed by inflation.

      Later, Grigory Yavlinsky would remember being struck by how little reformers such as Yasin or Gaidar seemed to care about the Russian people. Fundamentally, Yavlinsky argued, the people who guided Russia under the Yeltsin regime were both heartless and cruel.

      “[Gaidar and his colleagues believed] that Russia was populated by souki (rotten Soviets), that everything that exists in Russia should be wiped out and that only then can you build something new,” Yavlinsky fumed. “Any methods or means are all right. So let inflation destroy everything—that’s no problem at all. Because, in any case, all that stuff is dead, unnecessary. That’s the way Gaidar spoke—’The scientific establishment can wait! The northern regions are unnecessary for us! The older generation is guilty…’

      The paradox of those years is that they were building capitalism using purely Bolshevik methods. A Bolshevik is a man for whom the aim is important but the means are not.”

  13. Knobby Monster of North Carolina

    Is Russia achieving more success today than it was a year ago? Who can say? But looking back at Russia’s position as one described here, “Has Russia Already Pwnd Ukraine?” Nov 3, 2022 and “Russia’s Campaign in Ukraine: Nearing an Inflection Point?” July 18, 2022, I argue the Russia being written about today is no closer to its goals than it appeared then, while suffering new, more profound setbacks. But there’s no law that says history needs to (or can) make sense, and science is more concerned about the precision and accuracy of predictions about future events.

    Yes, Ukraine’s armour failed its push in the south but also stopped trying in July. Russia has yet to capitalize on this defeat beyond having something to cover in their news for once. Meanwhile, the Black Sea Fleet HQ is on fire, a submarine embarked on a new career as a coral reef, two S-400 SAM systems reduced to scorch marks… I could go on about irreplaceable Soviet-era strategic assets lost, such as the Tu22M (when they’re gone, they’re gone).

    For the sake of argument, let’s change the socio-cultural connotations. If Sweden and Denmark’s militaries conducted a joint special military operation (Russian military = 3.5 times larger than opponent) and invaded Norway (Ukraine’s army = opponent), would anybody expect Norway to fold? No, it’s an impossible operation against a motivated resistance, with or without Kim Jong Un. Sweden and Denmark would be heading home unless the rest of the world steps in to freeze the conflict.

    “Our true strategic aim was to seek [the enemy’s] weakest link, and bear only on that till time made the mass of it fall.”  — TE Lawrence. Sums up Ukraine’s new campaign against expensive, important stuff.

    1. The Inimitable NEET

      The annihilation of over 70,000 men and the majority of remaining armored vehicles (yes, the Ukranian Army relies on more than tanks for its mechanized divisions) is more important than mere symbolic air strikes. Meanwhile, Russia hits strategic objectives every time and these are never trumpeted as major successes because…it’s mundane by this point.

      The “profundity” of “Russia’s setbacks” only matters to ignoramuses who believe war is a succession of PR stunts. A headquarters that is not being used suffers cosmetic damage; a submarine which wasn’t actually sunk (by missiles which the UAF cannot replace) is nevertheless paraded around in desperation. Air systems and high-value targets will always be destroyed here and then; that is the nature of war. But only one country in this war can actually replace them while the other is scouring the bottom of the barrel for personnel.

      Instead of quoting Lawrence, actually study his campaigns.

  14. JTMcPhee

    Black swans are in the air. Just read a summary of neocon imperial activities around the planet. All aimed at “destabilization” of Russia and China. Armenia, Georgia, all kinds of places where the neo beast is “investing” in war and overthrow of nation state governments.

    Query whether the “personpower” shortage in Ukraine will lead to western boots on the ground, and soon missiles in the air, not just in Ukr but all those other places. Biden likely not cognizant enough to know or care what’s being done under the sigil of his fake political legitimacy — or maybe he’s like that Mafia boss who feigned debility while running the rackets and ordering the murders.

    Seems to me the present situation is a multi-ball collision problem, beyond our predictive political physics skills. I hope the Russians and Chinese have a strong enough “life wish” to overcome the imperial death wish.

  15. Aurelien

    I’m taking the liberty of referring anyone who might be interested to my article yesterday on the impossibility of negotiations on Ukraine, and therefore of a settlement in any reasonable timescale, because one of my arguments is that a ceasefire (which is the least impossible of the options) would blow the present regime in Kiev apart, as the internal tensions kept damped down by the war exploded. As far as I can see, therefore, the threshold conditions for being able to begin a reconstruction programme don’t and won’t exist. And of course the Russians will have their own opinions on the subject. I think the chances of organised mass violence in Western Ukraine, if not actual civil war, are greater than often believed, and the best that can be hoped for is something vaguely along the lines of the Palestinian Authority.

    1. Ignacio

      Let me reply you with an observation on a Russian TV program that was featured or linked somewhere i cannot recall. May be in the Locals-The Duran web site. This program included interviews in the streets of Kyiv asking for opinions about the bombing of Russian cities. I saw, if I recall correctly about 10 interviews and you could see people fiercely in favour of those bombings (a majority) but a few were quite sceptic about it, one of them decrying them as government propaganda. Of course you will always find a variety of opinions on everything but here, you see, as Ukraine crumbles, with the spectre of so many recent deaths and injuries and the presence of fascist organizations, expecting organised mass violence in Ukraine looks like something very likely. What a horrible mess. Both, Russia and the West might pay a toll for this.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Apologies for having not read your piece yet and incorporating it, since I am way behind on my reading due to the fundraiser and some fires I am having to put out.

      I was coming to the same conclusion but didn’t yet have the reasons for that intuition crisply worked out

    3. Ignacio

      A left another comment (in moderation) but after reading your article let me say: excellent stuff and a very good read!

    4. Feral Finster

      I have seen no evidence that the West is seeking a negotiated exit to the war in Ukraine, other than wishful thinking.

      Quite the contrary, the West continues to double down.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Haha, because they have no idea what negotiating entails they think they ARE negotiating by floating ridiculous ideas like freezing the conflict.

        It reminds me of the classic scene in Michael Clayton where the title character tells the ruthless corporate lawyer “Do I look like I’m negotiating?” He sort of is by giving her a price to make him go away, but it is such a high price and he is non-negotiable, so he’s saying he pwns her and she needs to knuckle under, which she quickly does.

        We still weirdly think on some level we can do that with respect to Russia

        Key plot points:

        1. Corporate lawyer had her attorney Arthur murdered who was a member of the same firm as Clayton

        2. Corporate lawyer thought she killed Michel Clayton in a car bomb, which is why she is so dumbfounded when he accosts her.

    5. Amfortas the Hippie

      i second the link to your latest, Aurelien…finally got to it early this morning, while having coffee with the screech owls.
      excellent work.

    6. Valerian

      I’m taking the liberty of referring anyone who might be interested to my article yesterday on the impossibility of negotiations on Ukraine, and therefore of a settlement in any reasonable timescale,

      I both read and enjoyed your article, but I quite frankly don’t know what to make of the conclusion. There must be *some* end to this, somehow. Your argument, if I understood it correctly, is that it cannot be through negotiation. If you are concluding that the result is a civil war, well, ok, but in that case who is fighting whom? The Palestinians are screwed partly because of their geography and because Israel has a large, rich foreign backer who is willing to support and encourage the status quo. Who is willing to pay to make Western Ukraine an open prison for 10-20million people? And who could afford to pay such amounts anyway?

      If you take requests for articles, perhaps writing about possible “final outcomes” would be of interest?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I must tell you that your request is not reasonable. This falls in the fallacy of “You wrote about X. Why didn’t you write about Y?” He never said he was writing about Y in this piece.

        You must have noticed the lack of commentary anywhere about what an endgame will look like. In decision tree terms, the outcomes are still too busy.

        However, I have speculated that one possible outcome for Western Ukraine is that ex say a diminished Kiev, most of it becomes like the Unorganized Territory of Maine, filled with what the locals call “beardos” as in men living off the land.

        Using that population density and assuming Western Ukraine has 60% of the land area of Ukraine give you roughly 36,000 people.

        So ex say what is left of Kiev and Lviv, which may be absorbed into Poland, the depopulation can be much more severe than you think particularly if Russia de-electrifies large swathes of Western Ukraine.

  16. digi_owl

    so we can look forward to years of banderite terrorism, using whatever NATO supplies they have scurried away that has not already found its way to the black market.

  17. Maxwell Johnston

    The whole “rebuilding Ukraine” theme, complete with investment conferences and politicians running their mouths off, is totally delusional. UKR had trouble attracting foreign investment even before 24.2.22, and its appeal has hardly increased now that much of its infrastructure and population has been reduced (while its legendary corruption apparently continues). I don’t think any of the potential investors (if one can call the likes of BlackRock and Goldman “investors”) actually take any of this seriously. They are going through the motions for reasons of PR and maintaining good relations with the current governing regimes in the west (who seem blindly committed to Project Ukraine). But it ain’t gonna happen.

    But it will be fun to see what the USA/EU eventually decide to do with the RU central bank assets that they’ve frozen. So far, the general idea has been to use this money to help UKR and (eventually) to help re-build UKR. Which begs the question: what will they do if there’s no UKR to invest into? Which will likely be the case, as I expect that RU will eventually occupy most of UKR (either directly or indirectly via a proxy regime) and quite possibly render the far west of UKR uninhabitable (bar subsistence farming and very light industry). How will the collective west justify stealing RU’s money? Of course they’ll find a justification, but it will require a lot of legal tap dancing.

    1. chuck roast

      Good point. These people don’t create assets, they asset strip. Actually creating a productive asset requires planning and initiative as well as investment capital. They are all built to sift around and find some relatively undamaged bit of infrastructure, pay chump-change for it, spiff it up around the edges, load it up with debt and off it to the greater fool. Even that will be a problem because everything in Ukieland will be Baltic Avenue and Mediterranean Avenue after the white flag goes up. Hardly and attractive place to hold The Predators Ball.

  18. Feral Finster

    I see thst Biden this morning reversed himself with regard to ATACMS. Ukraine will get another aid package besides, Team D is all in for more war, as are enough Team R to sail through the House. Throw in a few more “accounting errors” (who do they think they’re kidding?) and the like.

    The Polish government will reverse itself after the elections, regardless who wins.

    Don’t kid yourselves, the West is nowhere near doubling down.

      1. Feral Finster

        Once the number of warm live Ukrainian bodies starts running really low, they’ll Send In The Poles (along with the Czechs, Slovaks and the like).

        They won’t be happy about it, but nobody will ask them their opinion.

        The history of WWI is most instructive in that it shows just how far elites will go in order to get what they want.

        1. JTMcPhee

          But what, exactly, do the Fokkers WANT, “this time?” Other than chaos, “never let a crisis go to waste”-style, with forking trillions to the War Machine? The Machine seems to be trying to go many irreconcilable directions at once.

  19. ComradePuff

    I find myself wondering if the reorientation towards rebuilding isn’t itself a strategy to keep the Western tick on Ukraine despite being defeated on the battlefield. All the adults in the room know this is over, but the information is so distorted that most of the world might not realize that. What if the aim now is just to swoop in, loot and carve up what remains using the carcass of the government to legitimize it?

    What could the Russians do if Ukraine suddenly stops fighting militarily and starts “rebuilding”?
    Perhaps depriving Russia of military targets would be one way to avoid negotiating…

    I admit my idea is not fully thought out, but the drama around the grain deal (and old news about the massive agricultural privatizations) made me think that there are some very powerful, very foreign economic powers behind the scenes that would be very displeased if their blood-in-the-street investments were for naught. Also, those firings of the top officials for corruption could actually turn out to be golden parachutes, especially if they all end up landing like Reznikov, toasting on a yacht in Europe.

  20. Rubicon

    At this juncture, it’s time to remind ourselves of what the economist Dr. Michael Hudson said about the dual-attack by the US.
    He told told us, the US’s dual purpose was to financially hurt Russia AND China: the US stole Russia’s money AND blew up the Nord Steam pipelines to reduce the trade between Germany, Russia and China.
    In turn this has heavily impacted Germany’s satellite nations: Italy, France, Spain.

    The US Financial House has masterly started destroying Germany as a result. The US and EU Financiers are gobbling up public institutions: health care, and other public funding operations. Case in point Spain and UK public health care turned into privatized enterprise.

    What better way for the US Financiers to to make multiple billions off of the NOW privatized segments of EU/UK societies. Forget Ukraine. The US is moving forward in the bid to keep its’ Financialzed Hegemonic Empire.

  21. Irrational

    Thanks for an excellent – as usual – piece.
    What I would dearly like to know is the exact terms on which all the money, weapons and training from the “West” are provided.
    Are they really gifts respectively grants or is Ukraine expected to (re)pay and if so how much? For sure the EU support for the Ukrainian budget is repayable.
    The more of this sort of “aid”, the sooner we have a Ukrainian default on our hands and lots of write-offs left, right and center.

  22. chris

    I’ve noticed a considerable amount of magical thinking with regards to Project Ukraine. My friends who are lanyard class members of the State Borg are going Han Solo with “never tell me the odds!” as their mantra. How will the infrastructure for power distribution be repaired so that any outside contractor would be interested in doing the work? “THEY’LL BE INTERESTED IN THE OPPORTUNITY AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS!” Then why aren’t they doing it in the US already where it’scheaper and easier to accomplish that at a profit? And how profitable or interesting can it be to either build a system from scratch or attempt to recreate Soviet era transformer tech? “WHY ARE YOU SO FOCUSED ON WHAT CANT BE DONE?” At some point in time, they will drop the statement meant to end the conversation and make me apologize for my impertinence: “DO YOU WANT PUTIN TO WIN?!?!?!”

    I think more than any other war we’ve experienced in the last 30 years, Ukraine is where clear thinking and patriotism goes to die. We have US officials who believe destroying allies benefits the US. We have US officials who believe crippling our supply chain benefits the US. We have US officials who believe slaughtering Ukrainians benefits the US. Madness.

  23. Paul Damascene

    In the early going Yves compares the states of the UKR & Russian economies respectively, at Russia’s low point. It might be argued that UKR up to the RF incursion stands as an example of what the Western Oligarchy had in mind for Russia–a rusting, broken, kleptocratic sacrifice zone wide open for whatever experiments (biomedical, economic) and rapine the Extractivists could come up with– which they were well on their way to accomplishing, when the AntiChrist emerged as Yeltsin flagged.

    They were one fateful personnel choice away from accomplishing what various Scandinavians, Poles, Napoleon and Hitler could not. The equivalent of the 15th-century discovery of a New World of resource wealth for free. A second wind for the Hapsburgs.

    How they must hate Putler for it.

  24. skippy

    I’m reminded of my experiences in Afghanistan post the Commies getting the flick and how the freedom fighters were promised rebuilding post facto, when all was said and done they where informed that Iraq was the new priority and given phone numbers to some nice Wall St banks …

    The whole thing is an example of Captain Horribles … PIE … sociopathic tenancies dressed up as political policies …

    1. digi_owl

      And “nobody” ever seem to bother asking why Bin Laden seem to have a special hatred for the WTC. After all, 9/11 was not his first attempt at getting them toppled.

      1. JBird4049

        Sure, they did, but like President Bush said,”they hate us for our freedom.”

        Pardon me, I need to roll my eyes.

  25. gp

    Penny Pritzker was “helping Ukraine” after the 2014 coup. We can all read between the lines now.

    “In September 2014, at President Obama’s request, I traveled here to discuss how the United States can support Ukraine’s ambitious economic reform agenda and how this country can create a level playing field for all businesses. Those discussions helped pave the way for our deepening economic cooperation and the passage of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau through the Rada less than two weeks after our visit – a powerful and positive signal to outside investors and the United States.

    Since that time, under your leadership, Mr. President, your country has continued to make progress to improve the business climate, strengthen governance and competition, tackle corruption, repair the financial sector, and eliminate poorly targeted energy subsidies while protecting the most vulnerable members of society. But we all know there is far more to do – and we are here to discuss how the American government and our private sector can continue to be your partner on the road to economic reform.

    In our meetings today the President, with members of Ukraine’s government, and with senior U.S. executives, we focused on essential steps needed to make additional concrete progress to curb corruption, improve tax administration, strengthen intellectual property rights, deepen the gas sector reform, continue privatization in a transparent manner, and support the rule of law. And, we, the United States, our allies, and the international financial institutions, stand ready to support your efforts to improve the investment climate, integrate Ukraine into the global economy, and put this nation on a path to self-sustaining growth.”

  26. John Jones

    Ok , I’m a UK citizen – currently in Italy (Puglia) on holiday – reality hits in 2 days when the excellent primativo runs out & the flight home beckons.

    It’s not apparent to me in UK ( even in Europe) that the EU ( & UK ) knows what’s coming down the line – I’m making a rash but calculated assumption that most comments – on this very balanced article by Yves – are from a US viewpoint.

    As far as I can see – reconstruction or not, the EU will have a new failed state as a neighbour for decades – the EU has no money for itself let alone a busted flush on its doorstep – it can’t agree how to help Italy with its 110,000 illegal migrants never mind a depopulation of Ukraine of between 10m-20m souls.

    If the US as is looking to be the case, no longer has a dog -in-the-race it begs the question – who fills the vacuum?

    And, what of Russia – the purported victor?. With Europe unable to pay to defend itself – what of Nato , say 20 years down the line?

    I’m having another bottle of Puglia ‘s finest.

  27. YY

    As far as the grid is concerned, given the grid’s Soviet origin (and spec), the only country that can provide off the shelf hardware without having to reinvent the wheel is Russia. This and the fact that only Russia has the talent that speaks the language that Ukrainians best understand, puts Russia in an odd situation of being the most suited to “rebuild” Ukraine, where the destruction is probably not as extensive as advertised. Since the West is probably not interested in participating in rebuild of Ukraine under Russia, cost will be an issue. Russia already knows that whatever territory that it will take will also be it’s financial burden, there certainly will not be incentive to occupy areas that will cost to take care and at the same time there is insurgent/ terrorist activity/sabotage. Given the population is reduced by a third even before Kiev to Liviv is cut out, it may be affordable to take on what would become 1/2 of pre-smo Ukraine. I think they’ll be stuck with that but at least there will be hope for a”rebuild”. Alternate scenario of Ukraine rebuilt by Western carpetbaggers will resemble Libya after Kadafi.

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