Countries Pledge $1 Billion in Aid for Ukraine

by -35 Views

PARIS — World leaders on Tuesday announced more than $1 billion in swift aid for Ukraine to repair vital infrastructure and survive what is already a brutal winter, at a meeting that was notable as much for the breadth of nations involved as for the scale of their commitments.

The gathering in Paris extended far beyond the governments in North America, Europe and East Asia that have been mainstays of efforts to buoy Ukraine’s military, economy, government and people. It included representatives of some 50 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, India and Indonesia, as well as a number of multinational organizations.

The participants pledged money and equipment to help make repairs over the next few months to Ukraine’s electrical, heating, water, health care and transport systems, all shattered by months of Russian attacks.

“It’s tangible proof Ukraine is not alone,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said as he opened the one-day summit, flanked by Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, and Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady.

“The fight you are waging is a fight for your freedom, your sovereignty,” Mr. Macron said. “But it is also a fight for the international order and for the stability of all of us.”

Russia in the last two months has shifted much of its war effort to launching thousands of missiles and drones at essential civilian infrastructure around Ukraine. With its military stumbling badly on the battlefield, the Kremlin appears determined to force Ukraine to capitulate by making much of the country unlivable. On any given day, millions of Ukrainians have neither power nor heat, millions more endure rolling blackouts, some have no running water, and many of the hospitals, roads and railways they rely on have been damaged or destroyed.

All of Ukraine’s heating and hydroelectric power plants and much of the country’s electricity grid have been damaged, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, addressing the meeting from Ukraine via video feed. Technicians have worked at breakneck pace to make repairs, but cannot keep up.

He said that reversing the extensive damage to his country’s energy infrastructure alone would cost at least 800 million euros, about $840 million. He warned that Russia was likely to “intensify its attacks” during the winter, and repeated calls for Ukraine’s allies to provide more air defense weapons, on top of financial aid.

“If you help us,” Mr. Zelensky said, “that can stop a huge wave of new refugees coming into your countries.”

Since the Russian invasion in February, millions of Ukrainians have poured into neighboring countries that are also contending with record rates of inflation caused in part by the war.

The Paris conference, called by Mr. Macron, was one in a flurry of recent international meetings focused on the survival and reconstruction of Ukraine, whose economy has shrunk drastically during almost 10 months of war, as its needs have ballooned.

On Wednesday, European Union finance ministers are expected to approve about $19 billion in loans to the cash-strapped government in Kyiv. And on Monday, leaders from the Group of 7 wealthy democracies agreed to create a new system for nations supporting Kyiv to work together in coordinating civilian aid, akin to the existing system for delivering military assistance.

What made Tuesday’s meeting and announcements different, organizers said, were the timeline and a list of attendees that reached far outside the usual donors. The aid will be delivered between now and the end of March, answering a critique that delivery of previous aid pledges had been too slow.

Mr. Macron also announced the creation of the “Paris mechanism,” an online platform allowing Ukraine to communicate its urgent needs and donor countries to respond to them rapidly. Warehouses have already been set up in Poland and several neighboring countries to collect donations like generators, heat pumps, light bulbs and even fire trucks, that can be swiftly shuttled to devastated Ukrainian cities.

The organizers left it unclear whether all the countries present had donated, and if not, which ones had or how much they had committed. But a few made their own announcements.

Mr. Macron committed 76.5 million euros, more than $81 million, in immediate assistance from France, in addition to €48.5 million already pledged. The Swiss Parliament approved the immediate disbursal of 100 million Swiss Francs, about $107 million, said President Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland. Canada committed 115 million Canadian dollars, around $85 million, specifically for Ukraine’s energy grid.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg pledged €4 million in immediate aid, noting that while Europeans worry about lowering thermostats by a degree or two in response to the war-induced energy crunch, there are Ukrainians living in bombed-out shells of buildings. “I’m not the biggest at the table,” he said. “But you can count on us. We are with you.”

Catherine Colonna, the French foreign minister, said more than $440 million of the aid would be allocated to power system repairs, with smaller amounts earmarked for other needs.

“Thanks to things like today’s conference, we will have more and more partners supporting us,” said Mr. Shmyhal, the Ukrainian prime minister. “We see how alone the aggressor stands.”

Though some might question the wisdom of rebuilding shattered infrastructure even as Russian missiles continue to fall, Mr. Zelensky reminded everyone that millions of Ukrainians continue to live and work in the country — in broken hospitals, homes, shops, schools and offices, often using generators — even as the bombs fall. Ukraine’s military has also recaptured dozens of cities and towns that had been occupied by the Russians, often finding them devastated.

“Each time a territory is liberated by Ukraine, we need to rebuild it as soon as possible,” Mr. Macron said.

But such donations are just a small fraction of what will be needed to rebuild Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have called for a three-phase plan, starting with the kind of short-term infrastructure repairs addressed on Tuesday.

A second phase would focus on durably rebuilding thousands of damaged apartment buildings, homes, roads, schools and other structures, after the war. The third would focus further out on modernizing Ukraine’s major export-oriented industries, from agriculture to steel, in accordance with European standards, as the country prepares for hoped-for membership in the European Union.

Kyiv has said the effort would require at least $750 billion in investments, while the World Bank has put the reconstruction estimate at closer to $349 billion.

Either way, the sum is staggering, and the prospect of an avalanche of contracts has governments and hundreds of international companies rushing to help Ukraine now, in hopes of renewed deals when longer-term rebuilding starts in earnest. Companies from the United States, Germany, Denmark, Poland and beyond are already flocking to position themselves for rebuilding work.

France is no exception: After the morning multilateral meeting, Ukrainian ministers spent the afternoon with representatives of about 700 French companies to discuss rebuilding in the areas of infrastructure, energy, agriculture, digital innovation and health.

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said that contracts worth 100 million euros to rebuild bridges, pave roads with cement and seed Ukrainian farms had been awarded at the conference Tuesday to three French companies, adding that those deals were just the tip of the iceberg. In a reflection of the risks involved, however, France and other governments plan to offer state guarantees to companies doing future work in Ukraine.

For Mr. Macron, the long-planned event offered an opportunity to demonstrate European leadership in supporting Ukraine and to assuage any tensions with the Ukrainian government. Officials in Kyiv have been wary of the French president’s insistence on continued dialogue with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and were irked by Mr. Macron’s recent statement that an “essential point” in any peace talks should be how to provide security guarantees to Mr. Putin’s Russia.

On Tuesday, Mr. Macron said, “It’s up to Ukraine, the victim of his aggression, to decide the conditions of a just and enduring peace.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

No More Posts Available.

No more pages to load.