Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Marshall Plan – the massive US programme to rebuild western Europe’s economy after World War Two – is “the endless desire to repeat it” after subsequent conflicts, says Benn Steil in Foreign Affairs. “There will be a new Marshall Plan for Ukraine,” said Volodymyr Zelensky in March. European Council President Charles Michel agreed, announcing in May “the starting point for [a] kind of European Marshall Plan for Ukraine”. But as much as the country’s rich friends in the US and Europe would like to help, there’s one thing even the most “noble and generous of foreign saviours cannot change”: geography.
Ukraine will never attract serious investment while it remains “under the shadow of a hostile Russia”. Unless Washington is willing to escalate all the way to nuclear confrontation with Moscow, it will never be able to neutralise the Kremlin’s threat to Ukraine and its economy. Thanks to the original Marshall Plan, the newly formed Nato was able to guarantee peace and stability in Europe, giving investors the confidence to put money in for the long haul. Given Ukraine’s vast border with Russia, no such guarantee is possible. The “regrettable but inescapable conclusion” is that the “long-term, credible internal and external security” that is a precondition for a successful Marshall Plan in Ukraine is simply not possible. Russia may never conquer Ukraine, “but it is more than capable of making it a hellish place to live and do business”.