james199_Yevhen ZinchenkoGlobal Images Ukraine via Getty Images_ukrainewarreconstruction Yevhen Zinchenko/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

What Happens After the War?

Figuring out Ukraine’s post-conflict future will be essential not just for the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s invasion, but also for Europe and the world at large. Heeding the the lessons of the twentieth-century, today's victors must proceed in the spirit of the Marshall Plan, not the Treaty of Versailles.

PRINCETON – It is not too soon to think about what will follow Russia’s war on Ukraine. Figuring out the post-conflict future is essential not just for Russia’s Ukrainian victims, but also for Europe and the world. Yet, despite the urgent need to ensure that the first half of this century does not come to resemble the first half of the last one, discussions of the matter have been quite limited.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression eerily recalls the conflict that devastated Europe after 1914. World War I – the Great War – set the stage for subsequent catastrophes. It, too, began as a war in which an aggressor gambled on a quick victory; and it, too, evolved into a broader conflict in which each side tried to undermine the other’s fighting capacity and political stability.

By November 8, it was clear that Putin had miscalculated in assuming that the United States and the European Union would tire of the conflict and bully Ukraine into accepting a humiliating peace settlement. The critical moment came when the US midterm elections turned out not to be a shellacking for President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party. Immediately thereafter, Russia finally withdrew from Kherson city and pressed a new strategy of imposing as much misery and devastation as possible on Ukrainian civilians.