There’s just one question: who’s going to pay for all this? French President Emmanuel Macron has brought the strategic significance of humiliation back into focus: according to him, all the political-diplomatic steps to stop the war and open negotiations will only be effective if the scenario of a humiliation for Putin can be avoided. There is some wisdom in this way of looking at the war scenario and its possible solutions, but it will take much more than that to find agreement on the terms of a negotiation. That is, if Putin doesn’t prefer a protracted war in the first place. However, at some point, the issue of war reparations will have to be broached head-on.
On the matter of the overall responsibility for arriving at this conflict, those who wish to do so can keep arguing at great length. However, only the Russian army bears direct responsibility for the destruction in Ukraine of airports, railways, vital infrastructure, hospitals, schools, industries, ports, fuel and food depots and shopping centers. The Russian army alone has razed a number of urban and production centers, inflicted enormous damage on cities and towns, gutted residential neighborhoods and villages.
The Russian army has rendered a substantial portion of Ukrainian territory uninhabitable. It has prevented active farming in large areas and blocked the export of grains, with serious repercussions leading to famine for poor countries. Recently, it appears to have been raining down missiles on stores of corn destined for foreign countries. And left out of this merely economic accounting is the weight of the deaths caused, the massacres perpetrated, the torture inflicted on prisoners, the abduction of minors sent to the far east, the forced exodus of millions of women with children. That’s an entirely different chapter, which will have to be considered separately with its own logic.
This question will always need an answer: who will pay for all this? Should we wait for some clever third party to propose that in order not to humiliate Putin, he should be allowed some territorial gains and he should not be forced to pay reparations for the damage caused by his army? If peace was reached on such premises, what kind of peace would that be? Should Ukraine, wounded and depopulated, be content with the mere fact that it is no longer being bombed? Should it accept a diminishment of its territorial integrity and, moreover, rely only on international aid to rebuild its destroyed lands? Should Ukraine be humiliated in order to avoid humiliating Putin’s Russia?