Garton Ash: Costs to the West of abandoning Ukraine would be astronomical

Timothy Garton Ash talking to ERR.
Timothy Garton Ash talking to ERR. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Ukrainian defeat in its war against the illegal invasion by Russia would be a catastrophe not only for that country, but also for the entire West, even if only looking in cold, hard cash terms, Timothy Garton Ash writes.

The costs of funding Ukrainian defense and its post-war reconstruction might appear large, especially in the current economic situation globally, Garton-Ash writes, in an article which originally appeared on the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

However, these support costs, which he estimates at US$100bn per annum, constitute less than 0.2 percent of the GDP of the West, and less than 10 percent of NATO's current defense spend.

Moreover, Garton Ash argues, much of this spending is in any event ploughed back into Western economies via a boon in contracts for defense companies, construction companies, and others, in the West and in the U.S. in particular.

Conversely, the price of allowing Ukraine to fail in the defense of its sovereignty and in pursuing its recovery and reconstruction would be much, much higher than that, and would lead to a far more challenging defense and security environment, Garton Ash continues.

The scenarios which could follow would involve Russian troops potentially pushing through Western Ukraine up to the Polish border, leading to a refugee crisis in involving tens of millions, and all the economic and other strains this would bring.

Moreover, Garton Ash writes, Putin would likely not stop there, with Estonia and the other two Baltic States being among those in focus, and all NATO member states would need to go to Cold War-era defense spend levels of at least 3 percent of GDP per annum, no small deal in the current, debt-laden situation.

This would bring an additional $200bn of defense spending per year by Europe alone, equivalent to Ukraine's entire annual GDP, but double the annual rate of spend at present by the West in supporting Ukraine.

In other words, Garton Ash argues, Europe would have to pay twice as much as it already does – on a yearly basis and for an indefinite period of time.

Finally, there would also be the danger of the weakness this outcome would signal further afield, for instance in relation to the West's resolve on the Middle East, say, or Taiwan, and would not only prove Russia "right" in its policy of energy blackmail, but would also lead to yet further energy cost rises.

Helping Ukraine win this war, then, plus the ensuing peace, is the best investment NATO and its allies can make in their own defense, Garton Ash concludes.

The full piece, which appears on CEPA's website, is here.

Timothy Garton Ash has authored a dozen books of political writing, or what refers to as the "history of the present", and which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last half century. He is a Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has received numerous awards, and has also been entered on Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people.

CEPA states on its website its main goals include fostering a strong and enduring transatlantic alliance, one which is rooted in democratic values, and to build networks of future leaders well-versed in Atlanticism.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: CEPA

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