Dmytro Sherenhovsky. Position note: The challenges of post-war restoration: what Ukraine needs to take into account

  • 21.04.2022

Dmytro Sherenhovsky

Note: This material has been developed on the basis of my article about the experience of the Reconstruction era in the USA (1865–1877), published in the “A Quarter Century of Ukrainian-American Friendship: an Experience Worth Promoting. Collection of the Materials of the IIIrd Multidisciplinary Conference on American Studies, Lviv, April 12–13, 2016”. Lviv 2016, pp. 283–294. (

Some of the statements suggested in it have been reconsidered and covered in a more detailed way, with due account of the current phase of the Russian-Ukrainian war. However, I urge you to get acquainted with the initial article, since the case of the USA, not mentioned in this note, is considered there in a detailed way. And the US case is a unique one, since in that period there were no theoretical elaborations concerning post-war reconstruction and the US Government had to act at its own discretion, responding to the situation. This story is a partial example of how violation of reconstruction rules may put solving of social problems on hold for a long period of time.


Abstract: This note considers through the prism of post-conflict reconstruction conceptthe conditions that need to be secured in order to rebuild Ukraine. The focus is on security, economic, social, and political components of the concept as well as possible challenges that need to be taken into account in the reconstruction policy development. Special emphasis is laid on the risks evoked by violation of the sequence of reconstruction stages. The questions Ukraine should find answers to in order to develop a successful post-war reconstruction strategy are outlined here, in particular, the ones related to rejecting the Minsk process logic, the need for analyzing the reconstruction scenarios from other countries that have experienced war, development of the reconstruction plan prior to the end of hostilities, etc. The note should be perceived as a conceptual framework for further detailed analysis.



The Russian-Ukrainian war will be recorded in history not just due to unprecedented violations of international law by Russia and crimes against humanity, but due to large-scale infrastructural destructions in Ukraine and many killed Ukrainians. Already now – still in the background of active hostilities – experts are trying to calculate how much it will take Ukraine to rebuild its economic and human capacity. And the figures keep growing with each day of the war. Let me state here that, in spite of the establishment of a number of international mechanisms that would be supposed to prevent military aggression, we have seen how the authoritarian state’s policy manages to once again destroy the order of peaceful co-existence and how it raises the issue of efficiency of the established rules and procedures.

According to Uppsala Conflict Data Program (hereinafter referred to as the UCDP), 282 wars and armed conflicts have occurred since the end of World War II, and some of them are still ongoing[1]. It is no wonder that over the recent years, side by side with theoretical and practical developments related to settlement of armed conflicts, the issues of post-conflict development and reconstruction (rebuilding) have acquired a special status. Yosef Jabareen from the Israel University “Technikon” aptly points out that post-conflict reconstruction has transformed from a “great narrative” into a “great strategy”[2]. Now the objectives of post-conflict reconstruction are not limited to provision of humanitarian aid and securing peace. They spread further on to the development of the new agenda related to the establishment of the areas of stability, safety and democratic development in the territories where conflicts have occurred. Restoration of housing, elements of critical infrastructure, economic cycles and residential buildings cannot constitute a goal by themselves, they are just a tool. On the other hand, the process of restoration aims to ensure conditions for long-term peace in the region, hence, it depends not just on the national efforts, but involves engagement of a wider range of international partners.

The post-war restoration (often termed in scientific literature as “post-conflict reconstruction”) can be described as a set of measures taken and a set of means applied in the countries or territories that have experienced hostilities, aiming at political, economic, infrastructural, social reconstruction of the society. By its ontological nature, post-war restoration is the “object of construction”, by which one should understand not that much a specific list of approaches, directions, or activities, but rather the capacity to achieve the desirable outcome – to secure reconstruction and development[3]. There arise two problems that definitely need to be taken into account in the development of such policy.

The first problem is that there is a small number of successful reconstructions performed recently, that could serve as the models for implementation. The few studied ones include: the Marshall plan for Europe, reconstruction of Japan after World War II, reconstruction of the Balkan States that is closer to us in time, reconstruction attempts in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. The second problem is related to the fact that the course and the consequences of military actions in each society are characterized by some specific features, that it is why it is just impossible to outline any “ideal” set of measures. In spite of certain possible similarity with the Croatian, Israeli, or any other scenarios, the strategies in those countries cannot automatically be borrowed for Ukraine. The approach “do it as they did since they have succeeded” does not work and may even bring damages. However, studying the experience, the strategies and policies of those countries and other countries is of critical importance for Ukraine and gives hope that mistakes will be avoided in its own post-war restoration plan.

As the result, it is important to outline some conditions which, if met, will allow achieving the goal of post-conflict reconstruction, viz. rebuilding – transition to a qualitatively new status of social life as compared to the conflict status. Such conditions should include: 1) putting an end to the armed opposition; 2) liquidation of the factors that may re-activate escalation, 3) securing of mechanisms that make further social development possible. Besides that, it is important to follow exactly the order mentioned.

How post-war restoration occurs

The approach to post-conflict reconstruction is based on the “positive peace” concept (according to Joseph Galtung[4]), under which normalization and rebuilding are characterized not as a finished status, but as daily work of different social systems serving the needs of all residents. In other words, reconstruction refers not just to re-gaining control over the sovereign territory, but also restoration of the society’s capacity to provide for its functioning. Stanislaw Dnistrianskyi, the scholar-lawyer and political figure, aptly stresses: “Life is demanding more and more directness in managing the nation, as well as more and more adjustment to different needs, different interests, different contests in the society”[5]. Thus, though peace is the logical completion of the war and transition to normalization of social relationships, peace as such does not always mean achievement of positive or functional peace that constitutes the necessary precondition for reconstruction.

To ensure further social development it is necessary to follow the right sequencing of action in the reconstruction process[6]. Francis Fukuyama stresses that security and order should primarily be secured, and then economic, hence, democratic development should be launched[7]. Violation of this sequence evokes the risks for reconstruction: if a conflict is frozen or settled on a temporary basis (the first condition is met), but the second condition is not met, repeat conflict escalation may take place in the future. Fukuyama explains the sequence “security – economy – democracy” through the prism of the state-building concept that is closely connected to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Max Weber’s concept of the state monopoly to apply power. Thus, the state, while controlling the territory, should guarantee safe, sustainable development of public institutions that are to promote creation of social goods and their use. And if dissemination of social goods precedes economic development, the society will be split into the people who can afford acquisition of those goods and enjoy them and the people for whom they are inaccessible. If security and institutional capacity are not protected, social goods may well become the object of further speculations. Therefore, there arises the question about the transition period of military civil administrations and return to normal life only after a certain period of time.

Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder warn that the democracy-securing process must come as the consequence of institutional development. This refers, in particular, to announcement of election, since election normally mobilizes different powers, including non-democratic ones[8]. On legitimizing via democratic procedures, they may block democratic restoration and development of local communities over a long period.

To sum up, let me indicate the following: post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine must clearly follow those three stages in the pre-determined sequence. Specific tools, measures and means must be applied throughout this process in different directions.[9][10][11]


1) ensuring security and stabilization of the situation;

2) reconstruction of economy and state institutions;

3) development of social institutions and spread of democracy.

Directions and tools:

1) security reconstruction: disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the territories occupied by Russia on a temporary basis, preservation of the transitional military civil control, and, if necessary, engagement of peace-keeping contingencies (particularly, in the process of reintegration of ORDLO (breakaway raions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and Crimea);

2) economic reconstruction: re-conversion, infrastructural restoration, restoration of regulatory and market institutions, reformation and upgrading of economy, support of small- and medium-sized business, attraction of investment, etc.;

3) social reconstruction: humanitarian aid, support of local communities, vulnerable and conflict-affected persons, transitional justice, engagement of public sector development experts, post-conflict education, etc.

4) political reconstruction: capacity building in political institutions, development of local communities and election holding.

Besides following the sequence of reconstruction stages, it is extremely important to take into account social and territorial specificity of the post-conflict region, since different social actors have a different reconstruction capacity (which means that some cities or regions can restore and rebuild within a shorter period than others), and that requires differentiated use of reconstruction tools.

Possible reconstruction challenges

The first challenges in the process of post-conflict reconstruction of Ukraine are disarmament and demobilization, and this is related to two tasks. In the short term, this is implementation of the normalization policy and return to peace after the victory over the aggressor. In the long term, this is ensuring of social development already in peace conditions. It should be stressed that the long-term prospects depend on the availability of further threats from Russia. In case of the so called Israeli scenario, the logic of permanent military threat will create the need for developing the defense agenda that will indirectly follow the logic of the positive peace concept. Constantly staying in the same status since 2014, Ukraine has to choose between security costs and development costs. This is primarily the result of the Russian policy of permanent confrontation of which its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 became the apogee. Let us be frank, if the international community is not involved in the process of deconstructing Russian state ideology – rascism (combination of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist ideologies) – Ukraine will keep facing the challenges destroying the process of post-conflict restoration in its original sense further on. On the other hand, demilitarization in the conditions of further threats from the northern and north-eastern neighbors will be an extremely careless step, as our experience has proven.

The need to restrain potential threats will create an additional load for the Ukrainian economy, requiring its transformation as compared to its pre-war status. In his interview for NV of April 4, 2022, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal informed that Ukraine spends on average 2 bln. UAH a day on combat actions, not taking into account economic and infrastructural losses[12], as well as the cost of weapons we get from our partners. Certainly, the budget of the potential special fund “in case of war” requires detailed calculations and planning, but even on the basis of this data it may be assumed that annual costs will reach almost $24 bln., not taking the costs of re-armament into account. In 2019 Ukraine spent some $4.4. bln., or 5.4 % of its GDP on defense. If we assume – for purely theoretical cost assessment – that we will keep allocating at least 5 % to defense, our GDP should exceed $480 bln. a year. If Ukraine keeps using its economic model oriented at raw materials, it will not manage to cope with this load on its own.

To manage such costs of defense, Ukraine will definitely face the need for rebuilding its economic model towards production and export of goods and provision of services with higher added value. The plans concerning attraction of foreign investment should attach priorities to the respective industries, like military and defense complex, IT, secondary and precision engineering, etc.

Such changes will require re-orientation of education. The worst situation for the new economy may be surplus of unskilled labour, in particular, in the background of deficit of capital for making investment into the economy. Most countries that have gone through post-war restoration stages issued bonds and granted subsidies to stimulate economic development in the selected directions. The conditional “Marshall Plan” and support provided by foreign partners are vitally important for economic restoration and reformation of the social and economic system. It should be noted that distribution of such assistance should be secured against corruption influences. One of the steps required on this way – along with open tenders on digital platforms as Ukraine has been practicing over the recent years – is engagement of international partners that would be guarantors of “transparency”. And this is already under discussion.

And slow restoration of infrastructure and creation of jobs with decent salary in the regions affected by the war will contribute to their isolation, focusing on local interests and leaders, radicalization of residents’ mood and sentiments over the “pre-war times”, and this is something local leaders, in particular, opposition leaders, may speculate on. That is why it is the stage of democratization and development of political initiatives via local election that should be carried out at the final stage of reconstruction.

Special attention should be paid to the development of transparent and fair institutions of transitional justice for cases of reintegration of territories under temporary occupation, in particular, ORDLO (breakaway raions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and Crimea. In particular, the principles of punishment for war crimes starting with 2014 (for instance, crimes against humanity) and the principles of being acknowledged non-guilty under the amnesty conditions (for example, whether the criterion of political orientation and the criterion of collaboration will be taken into account) should be clearly set out.

Each of the above challenges, as well as most of those that will arise during scrupulous planning, should be analyzed in detail and reflected in the comprehensive reconstruction strategy. One of the initial steps must be the study of the experience of other countries and finding useful models fit for the Ukrainian case, as well as identification of the ones that may be harmful.

Brief conclusions for further analysis

  1. Correct sequencing of stages should be followed in the post-conflict reconstruction process: securing safety, economic growth, and, hence, democratic initiatives. This sequence may not be subject to diplomatic or political bidding. This is the axiom non-compliance with which has already led to new escalations and inefficient restoration results in a number of countries affected by war. Fortunately, restoration plans under the Minsk process and related proposals like “Morel Plan” or “Steinmeier Plan” violating the logic of reconstruction may already stop being discussed after the full-scale Russian invasion.
  2. It is important to analyze the experience of post-war restoration of other countries in order to outline in it the practices and the mechanisms that would be relevant for the Ukrainian case.
  3. It is necessary to develop a clear reconstruction strategy that would satisfy all the post-war development conditions and provide the necessary tools to social institutions. This plan should be developed before the end of the war to avoid development of the policy based on somebody else’s scenarios as well as to tune international partners for its implementation.
  4. It is necessary to ensure conditions for economic development of regions with equal access to the sources of funding. It is extremely important to create favorable conditions for investment and cheap crediting, to ensure free entrepreneurship, to develop science-intensive and high-tech industries, preventing appearance of corrupt practices at the same time. Support of educational and public initiatives should be the key to economic reforms.


[1] Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 2022 (

[2] Jabareen Y. Conceptualizing “Post-Conflict Reconstruction” and “Ongoing Conflict Reconstruction” of Failed States // International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 2013, Vol. 26 (2), p. 108.

[3] Jabareen Y. Conceptualizing “Post-Conflict Reconstruction” and “Ongoing Conflict Reconstruction” of Failed States // International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 2013, Vol. 26 (2), p. 110.

[4] Galtung J. Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization. London: Sage Publications, 1996.

[5] Дністрянський С. Нова Держава. Відень-Прага-Львів: Видавництво “Українського скитальця”, 1923, с. 27. [Dnistrianskyi S. New State. Vienna-Prague-Lviv: Publishing House “Ukrayinskoho Skytaltsia”, 1923, p. 27. – in Ukrainian]

[6] Hantington S. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1968. – 488 p.

[7] Fukuyama F. Liberalism versus state-building // Journal of Democracy, 2007, Vol.18 (3), p. 10.

[8] Mansfield E. D., Snyder J. L. The sequencing “fallacy” // Journal of Democracy, 2007, Vol. 18 (3), pp. 5-10.

[9] Crane C. Peacekeeping, nation-building and stabilization, in Matthews L. J. (ed) Winning the War by Winning the Peace: Strategy for Conflict and Post-Conflict in the 21st Century: Conference report // Fifteenth Annual Strategy Conference Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, April 13-15, 2004, p. 27.

[10] Jabareen Y. Conceptualizing “Post-Conflict Reconstruction” and “Ongoing Conflict Reconstruction” of Failed States // International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 2013, Vol. 26(2, p. 115.

[11] Natsios A. The Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development // Parameters, 2005, Vol. 35 (3), p. 4-17.

[12] Економіка великої війни – інтерв’ю з Денисом Шмигалем // НВ Бізнес – 4.04.2022 [Economy of the Great War – an Interview with Denys Shmyhal // NV Business – 4.04.2022] (