Crime and reparations. Konstantin Eggert on how Russia will pay for the war after Putin

“Ukraine will win this war - at the cost of great sacrifices and not soon, but it will win. Moreover, it will apparently return to itself all the lands occupied by Russia, including Crimea.” These words were told to me recently by a former US Marine who served in the Foreign Legion of Ukraine. According to him, the technical backwardness of the Russian army and its low morale, a derivative of the style of warfare, led, according to him, to this conclusion of my interlocutor, who went through Afghanistan, without regard for the victims among his own.

Expert opinions differ on this matter. But if we accept the future defeat of the Kremlin as a working hypothesis, then the question arises: will Russia compensate for the damage caused to Ukraine? If so, how exactly?

Assuming that the Ukrainians will retake the Donbass, then, in my opinion, Putin has some chance to survive this loss. The ranks of potential candidates for his position have been cleared, and the negative selection of personnel on the basis of maximum loyalty has also managed to bear fruit. Governing the country through two simple methods - corruption and fear - may allow Putin to not fear for the future for a while.

What Putin clearly will not survive is the loss of Crimea. Not because the people will not forgive the Kremlin elite for "national disgrace" and will rise up. The Russian public is by and large passive. Mass demonstrations are possible, in my opinion, only under the conditions of a really monstrous economic situation, which is still far away.

If the Ukrainians retake the Donbass, Putin can survive it. But he definitely won’t survive the loss of Crimea

But still, the forced withdrawal from the peninsula will be a political disaster for the Russian dictator. It will be impossible to cover it up with any propaganda makeup. Putin's main "achievement" will turn into a defeat, his weakness will become obvious, the search for the guilty within the ruling group will get out of control and, very likely, will lead to its split. The situation may turn out to be similar to the situation after Stalin's death - an apex squabble, and then consolidation around a new leader or leaders.

There are also two other options. One is the collapse of Russia in one form or another. In this case, the issue of compensation for Ukraine will become much more complicated. There will hardly be many willing to take responsibility for this legacy of Putin. Another option is the coming to power of sincere, democratically minded people who are at the same time capable of practical politics. They can call for national repentance and cleansing and will actively act in this direction. This option looks the least likely so far.

However, any post-Putin government (even those made up of ex-Putins) will generally be in the mood for negotiations and a way out of the war. At least in order to try to return assets frozen abroad, eliminate or significantly reduce Western blacklists and return to the sweet times of profitable cooperation with transnational corporations.

Unlike Germany in 1945, no one will occupy Russia, and it will not lie in ruins. The situation is more likely to be somewhat similar to the state of affairs in Serbia in 2000 after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Then part of the political class removed the most odious representatives of the former regime from the forefront, and even extradited Milosevic himself to the International Court in The Hague.

Nobody occupies Russia, and it will not lie in ruins. The situation will rather resemble Serbia in 2000

It is likely that those who succeed Putin will try to do something similar (although the extradition of even some supernumerary major today seems not very science fiction) and appear before the world in the guise of "the new leadership of the new Russia."

During the five months of the war, Russia caused $108 billion worth of damage to Ukraine's infrastructure, according to a study by the Kiev School of Economics. Recovery will require at least $185 billion. The largest share in the total damage falls on housing - 129.9 thousand residential buildings. In second place is the infrastructure sector - $31.6 billion. On the third - the industry with a damage of 8.8 billion dollars. Overall, according to the Kyiv School of Economics, since February 24, Russia has damaged, destroyed or seized: 388 businesses; 43.7 thousand units of agricultural machinery; 1991 store; 511 administrative buildings; 18 civil airports; 105.2 thousand cars; 764 kindergartens; 634 cultural buildings; 27 shopping centers; 28 oil depots.

Ukraine, obviously, will set itself two goals: to achieve the trial of war crimes suspects and the payment of reparations. One can easily predict what Moscow's first reaction will be: “Don't demand anything from us! Our position is extremely precarious, the dark forces of Putin's revenge are preparing to return to the political scene. If we pay even a ruble to Ukraine, they will sweep us away.”

There is nothing new here. Due to the fact that there are no reliable independent political institutions in Russia, the West is always forced to focus on leaders. In the late eighties and early nineties, they said: "There is no alternative to Gorbachev." When the alternative in the person of Yeltsin swept away Gorbachev, Yeltsin became the only alternative. The talk that “without Putin there will be chaos” or “Putin is at least a familiar evil, or someone worse may come” is still going on. The future rulers of Russia after Putin are likely to use the same simple logical construction again. I guess not without success.

In order for Russia to start paying reparations, it needs such a strong political will on the part of the West and such a degree of its involvement in Russian affairs that it is very difficult to imagine today.

The trial of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity will be a little easier to achieve than reparation payments. If only because it will be possible to try to write off all the problems on those whom the "new Kremlin" will appoint responsible for the "wrong" outcome of the war, including to calm domestic public opinion. The new leaders will first of all try to surrender pawns and get queens out of the blow, so as not to answer the question “what did you do after February 24, 2022” themselves.

Moreover, if the current Russian legislation continues to operate at that moment, the trial will be able to take place only in Russia, since its citizens are not subject to extradition abroad. And although all the articles by which suspects could be tried are in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, it is difficult for me to imagine an objective and impartial process in Russia. Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his henchman General Ratko Mladic were put on trial not immediately and under very serious pressure from the West on Belgrade. Is it possible to exert such pressure on Moscow? Theoretically, it is possible, but for this, the Kremlin's interest in lifting sanctions should be very acute due to the catastrophic economic situation and, as a result, the danger of mass popular uprisings.

When it comes to paying reparations, the Moscow leadership will claim that it has no money - they say, first remove the sanctions, and then we will talk. It will also resist any regular payments stretched out over time, and if it agrees to pay something, then rather a lump sum and a little, presenting it as a “goodwill gesture” - because “the new leadership is not responsible for the crimes of the past.”

Ukraine and its allies will, of course, have a completely different opinion. But to pay reparations, an independent assessment of Russia's assets is needed, international agreements on the volume and procedure for payments, and finally, an effective mechanism for monitoring them - all this will be very difficult to create for a giant nuclear state, which, even after the defeat, will have something to intimidate the world. Moreover, many in the West are always ready for any excuses, just not to make difficult decisions.

There are few people who want to at least approximately estimate the volume of reparations. Economist Vladislav Inozemtsev believes that it is not the cost of destroyed assets that should be calculated, but restoration. “The same Azovstal is pointless to restore in its former form,” said Inozemtsev in an interview with The Insider. - It is necessary to calculate the costs of building new cities and enterprises. This, in my opinion, should be done - under the auspices of the EU - by consortiums of companies that would be ready to deal with the restoration of Ukraine. My personal estimate of the work is from 400 to 500 billion euros. At the same time, it is necessary to create a fund to manage these investments and partially carry them out on a commercial basis.” However, Inozemtsev himself is convinced that Russia will not pay any reparations and it is impossible to force it to do so.

If, as a result of the war, Ukraine regains control over the territory within the 1991 borders, then both Moscow and part of the Europeans will certainly begin to convince the Kiev leadership: “Did you get back what you wanted? So now build the future with the support of the EU and the US, and forget about Russia. You yourself do not need a beggar and evil northern neighbor. And then - again about "stability" and another lack of alternatives.

What the future Kremlin, I think, will be able to trade is air - in the form of "agreement" to Ukraine's entry into the European Union and NATO. To do this, it will be enough to issue new training manuals to the future Soloviev-Kiselev-Norkin, who will quickly convince the audience that they can live with this. When real, and not fake, leftists and nationalists come to the State Duma at possible relatively free parliamentary elections, their anger at “surrendering positions” can be converted into another dose of American-European “understanding” and support for the new Kremlin leadership.

In a country experiencing such a deep moral crisis as today's Russia, it is difficult to expect the coming to power of a highly moral leadership inspired by at least some ideals. The future, even in the event of Moscow's defeat, is most likely an endless bargaining.

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