Tegan Tuesday: Danish commitment to Ukrainian city is a reminder to keep looking forward to a better future

It has been almost six months since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th. Buckets of ink have been spilled about this war, with most of the discussion centering around bad news. One of the hardest hit cities was the southern coastal city Mykolaiv. As the NYT described the situation:

Few places in Ukraine have experienced the kind of sustained barrage of Russian fire as this city on the southern coast. Since the war began nearly five and a half months ago, there have been barely two dozen days free of violence.

The attacks have destroyed about 1,200 homes and apartment buildings, according to the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych. Since the war began, he said, 132 residents have been killed and more than 619 injured in Russian attacks.

Daily, I see updates on social media about the extensive shelling and the destruction of the city, and it’s been heartbreaking to see. Cue my actual surprise to see that the Danish government will be sponsoring (and paying for) the reconstruction of Mykolaiv. The Ukrainian city mayor has spoken with Danish officials, stating that Ukraine looks North for inspiration, and they want to make a “new Copenhagen” on the Black Sea. This is a two stage process: while Ukrainians want to build a modern, green city, there needs to be a city to build! The primary issue that Denmark will work on (while the war lasts) is water. Mykolaiv residents are without potable water. The primary pipeline for water access was bombed and the alternative water supply is not purified. The Danish government will install 100 water purification systems throughout the city in an attempt to ease this burden from the Ukrainians. Further support for Ukraine in general will also come from Denmark, including support for their EU bid, Danish petroleum products and agricultural supplies.

This isn’t just a whim of the Danish — this is one of the early steps in fulfilling the Ukrainian Recovery Plan, U-24 as discussed in Lugano July 4-5 of this year. The conference organizers had already scheduled talks regarding the modernization of Ukraine prior to the the outbreak of war, but the invasion changed the focus of the talks to recovery. In order to afford the massive effort to rebuild, Ukraine is reaching out to many different individual countries and requesting ‘sponsorship’ for specific regions or cities. The original presentation of the Ukrainian Recovery and Development Plan offered a potential division into twelve areas and sponsors that included Ireland supporting the Rivne region, the US and Turkey tackling Kharkiv’s destruction, and Sweden and the Netherlands rebuilding the Kherson region. The proposed plan was enthusiastically greeted, and the Lugano Declaration, published July 6, 2022, indicate that the plan for recovery will move forward, although no official sponsorship will occur just yet. Just a little over a month later, and Denmark is the first country to begin working with Ukraine.

Projects like this are political as much as they are humanitarian, and it’s worth remembering that. As with discussion of joining NATO, this is part of much larger geopolitical contests. It would not shock me to learn that Ukraine requesting European investment is a pointed reminder that Ukraine is a part of Europe, and therefor merits support from the rest of the continent. That said, it seems clear that projecting power and influence by building up other countries is much better than doing so with war. The situation is still on-going, but I hope that this is one step of many such cooperative moves in the near-future.

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