The Death of a Nation
Scott Ritter: Ukraine is dying
History, it seems, will always be of two minds when it comes to describing the birth of Ukraine. There is the narrative of the Ukrainian nationalists, which is founded on the notion of the inherent destiny of the Ukrainian people regarding self-determination. And there is the narrative of Russian nationalists, who view modern Ukraine as a manufactured entity cobbled together by outsiders to fulfill a larger geopolitical purpose. The truth, as it is, probably lies somewhere in between.
This is a question for historians.
Describing the death of Ukraine, however, is not so tricky. It is happening right before our very eyes. What was once Ukraine, regardless of its historical origins, is no more. Moreover, it will never be again.
Ukraine is dying.
When it comes to that which defines the Ukrainian nation—its people—the reality is that the population is deeply fractured, so much so that it is safe to say that the population of western Ukraine and the population of eastern Ukraine will never again coexist under the roof of a single national identity.
The fate of western Ukraine remains in flux, what with the prospects of a Russian-led de-Nazification campaign looming in their future, and the Poles waiting in the wings like a pack of hungry wolves waiting to be unleashed on an unguarded flock.
Eastern Ukraine’s future is somewhat more predictable, with a significant percentage of the ethnic Russian population having been absorbed into Mother Russia, and the prospects of even more territory following suit a real possibility.
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But the future of eastern Ukraine is bleak—even if all or most of the ethnic Russian population of eastern Ukraine finds their territory reclassified as Mother Russia, the path toward recovery is a long and difficult one. Had there been no war, the cost of bringing the standard of living in eastern Ukraine up to Russian levels would have been prohibitively expensive, given the disparity between the quality of social and economic infrastructure.
Now, after suffering through eight years of conflict, with more to come, the cost of rebuilding eastern Ukraine is virtually incalculable, so much so that the prospects of the heavy industry of the Donbas (Azovsteel, in Mariupol, comes to mind) ever being revived are slim to none; the best eastern Ukraine can hope for is to be converted into a primarily agriculture-based economy, to be absorbed into the overall expanse of the Russian breadbasket.
While the cost of extending Russian utilities, infrastructure, and services into eastern Ukraine will be very high, at least the people of eastern Ukraine will have friendly underwriters in the form of the Russian people and government to make it all possible.
For the rest of Ukraine, there is no such happy ending. The infrastructure of the nation is being violently dismantled by Russian air attacks. Heavy industry is being destroyed piecemeal. The national economy has evaporated, with what remains largely underwritten by western financial handouts and the selectivity of Russian strategic targeting. By some estimates, Ukraine has already suffered over $350 billion in infrastructure damage, with total losses anticipated to top $1 trillion by the time the fighting ends.
Who will pay the cost to rebuild? Ukrainian demands that Russia pay reparations are the stuff of Hollywood fantasy—it will never be so. The growing fatigue in the west over the Ukraine war with Russia is such that not only is there a growing reticence about underwriting the costs of sustaining the conflict, but the prospects of Europe and/or the US continuing to fund the reconstruction of post-war Ukraine is virtually non-existent.
Ukraine is on its own.
That is, what is left of Ukraine. Like eastern Ukraine, what remains of Ukraine once the war ends will be virtually impossible to bring back to its pre-war condition, given the combination of pre-conflict decay, post-conflict ruin, and basic economic cost-benefit analysis (rebuilding Ukrainian industry just isn’t cost effective from an investor standpoint). Such heavy industry will be largely a thing of the past. But even an agrarian rump state will find sustainability difficult if, as will more than likely be the case, Russia seizes Odessa and Ukraine loses access to the Black Sea. The bottom line is that the standard of living for the remaining population of Ukraine will plummet, making life all but unsustainable for the Ukrainian people.
Here is the real tragedy of this conflict—the human toll. By the time this war is over, Ukraine will more than likely have suffered around 500,000 combat deaths. Families will have been gutted, and with them the communities that they once helped underpin. Ukrainian society will collapse from within. Already, families are beginning to flee the big cities, and soon even the villages will be unable to absorb the displaced population brought on by the damage to electrical generation capacity and other critical infrastructure.
The Ukrainian people will be compelled to flee Ukraine to survive.
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The problem is, there is no home in Europe for these Ukrainians, whose numbers are anticipated to be in the millions. Millions of Ukrainian refugees who have found a safe haven in Europe since the initiation of the Special Military Operation have outstayed their welcome and are being returned even as the looming collapse of Ukrainian society prepares to unleash a new wave of human detritus into the European “garden” that exists in Josep Borrell’s active imagination.
But the European “garden” is itself a jungle, a wasteland of ruined economies and displaced workers struggling to keep their collective heads above water in the economic aftermath of Europe’s disastrous embrace of the US-led sanctioning of all things Russian. Any Ukrainians who make it into Europe will find themselves on the low end of a long list of priorities, relegated to the most menial of jobs, and by extension the most menial of lives.
The Ukrainian diaspora will come to define the fate of European nations that have forgotten why nations sought to forego large-scale ground wars on their own soil. The cost of this error is being paid by the people of Ukraine, while the perpetrators of this war—the citizens of the European “garden” and the United States—get off lightly. Economic discomfort is nothing compared to the disintegration of a nation.
And that is precisely what is playing out before the world in real time—the death of a nation.
The death of Ukraine.
This tragic reality should be pondered by all those who have placed a tiny Ukrainian flag alongside their online identity and embraced “Stand with Ukraine” as their personal rallying cry.
They stand for nothing because they believe in nothing—not Ukraine, not peace, not humanity.
History will damn them, as I do now.