Espreso. Global

Ukraine’s recovery is crucial for EU and US future — historian Timothy Snyder

16 February, 2024 Friday

Timothy Snyder, American historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, discussed the prospects and challenges of recovery efforts in Ukraine

The historian talked about recovery efforts in Ukraine at the recent IGP convening on the future of Ukraine.

Urgent need for accelerated mine clearance

During his recent visit to Ukraine, Snyder witnessed the innovative ways local farmers in the Kherson region demined their own fields, using makeshift solutions.

“They'd rigged up tractors to demine their own fields, which demonstrates incredible ingenuity,” the historian said and added “But it also demonstrates a problem where, I think, we need to think about how American ingenuity can scale up. The mines have to be cleared at a rate of 10 or 100 times faster than they are being cleared. And I can't help but think if there were contests at Ulster Polytech, MIT, Caltech, we could think of a way to do this.”

Supporting small NGOs for effective recovery

Snyder emphasizes the crucial role played by small NGOs and local organizations in the recovery and reconstruction process. 

“Recovery reconstruction takes place during a war. It has to take place during a war. If someone knocks your wall down, you're going to try to rebuild it. That is in fact happening in Ukraine throughout the country. Some is being carried out by the central state or by the oblasts (regions) or by the regional town authorities. 

The thing I want to add is a lot of it is being done by small NGOs, by little organizations, who are never going to get the attention of Brussels, or Berlin, or Washington, unless we get organized,” he said.

The historian calls for organized support from international entities, including USAID, Brussels, Berlin, and others, to ensure that these smaller organizations receive the attention and assistance needed to maintain Ukrainian democracy and recovery efforts.

“The small NGOs in Ukraine, the little bits of civil society are the thing which has pushed Ukraine towards democracy at every turning point. And so, we want to make sure, even as we support the central state, that we're rewarding those people to keep Ukrainian democracy going, to make sure that recovery is decentralized, to reward the people who are already doing things, but also for reasons of simple effectiveness. There are people out there who are proven they can do things already and we need to make sure that we know who they are. This is a kind of an appeal to USAID, and to Penny Pritzker, and to Brussels, and to Berlin and so on that we gather together the NGOs as well as the private sector and the central government when we think about recovery,” Snyder urged.

Ukraine's EU membership - a future for all

According to Snyder, Ukraine's eventual membership in the European Union is vital not only for Ukraine but also for the EU and the United States. 

“It's going to be not only in the interest of Ukraine, but in the interest of the European Union for all kinds of reasons: educated workforce, access to certain resources, agriculture, also a new moral and political challenge for the European Union which, I think, is very important. Their story about 1945 has worn itself out. They need another story, another challenge. And this is it. This is the challenge for this generation of Europeans,” he argues.

Snyder also underscores the importance of participating in the recovery, asserting that it is not just for the benefit of Ukrainians but also for a better future for nations across the EU and the US.

“The reason why people began to protest in Ukraine, young people, at the beginning of November 2013, was that Europe, for them, meant the future. The recovery that we're talking about is a future. When we think about taking part in this recovery, we might look back and say, what are the things that we, as Americans, feel good about in the last century? Well, the Marshall Plan. What worked out well for us economically and in terms of every other possible calculation or interest? Also the Marshall Plan. 

Recovery is not just something we're doing so the Ukrainians have a better future. It is also something we do so that we have a better future across every possible dimension,” the historian stressed.

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