In the Midst of War, Ukraine Is Beset by the Hosts of Political Correctness

At Lugano parley, Ukraine meets headwinds to its hoped-for recovery.

Michael Buholzer/Keystone via AP
The president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, the Swiss president, Ignazio Cassis, and the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, from right, on July 4, 2022 at Lugano, Switzerland. Michael Buholzer/Keystone via AP

The two-day Ukraine Recovery Conference being held in Lugano, Switzerland, concludes today with the adoption of the Lugano Declaration, a framework for the protracted process of restoring a nation ravaged by war. This is “a joint task for the entire democratic world,” President Zelensky told conference participants via video-link on Monday.

Yet Mr. Zelensky should be prudent in what he wishes, for much of the democratic world is currently embroiled in conniptions over gender pronouns, various -isms — both real and imagined — and climate change hysteria, even as Europe braces for a cold winter amid limited gas reserves.

Such factors are unlikely to be of much use in rebuilding a nation. Neither are they of value in uniting one, as the recent American experience has shown.

Originally, the Lugano conference was the Ukraine Reform Conference. It has been held in a different location each year since 2017, with the stated objective of assisting Ukraine in formulating and implementing reforms necessary for its security and defense, as well as its ostensible alignment with international standards on matters as democracy and rule of law. 

In 2021 Transparency International ranked Ukraine as the second most corrupt country in Europe, second only to Russia. The value of this assistance is then arguably questionable. 

So it is likely to be with the Lugano Declaration. The declaration emphasizes ongoing efforts to weed out corruption, greater attention to human rights, gender equality, inclusion, and environmental sustainability. Alongside the conference, the Swiss environment minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, and her Ukrainian counterpart signed an agreement on Ukraine’s implementation of the Paris Climate Accords.  Exactly what is not needed in a time of crisis.  

On their own each of these matters could well be deserving of attention. Yet if they are to be considered at all, then it would likely be best to do so when peace is ultimately achieved and not when Ukraine remains at war, its territorial integrity and sovereignty still at risk. 

Arguably, too, Ukraine’s priority would be reversing the destruction caused to its critical infrastructure, vital for agricultural commodities, humanitarian aid, and evacuations. 

Ukraine’s government estimates that some 15,534 miles of its roads, more than 300 bridges, and 3,915 miles of railway lines have been so far destroyed. Some 80,000 buildings, including about 800 hospitals and other medical facilities, have been damaged, to say nothing of schools and housing. The costs could top $750 billion

It is then difficult to imagine that the average Ukrainian would fret when it comes to gender quotas and solar panels over, say, accommodation, heat, and food.

Now is not the time for ideological fantasies — and surely not for misguided, woke theories that have led to a weakened and flailing West. It is a time for bread-and-butter basics. 

First, an end to the conflict. Then, a focus on infrastructure, on managing the 8 million internally displaced persons and the additional 6 million forced abroad. On ensuring Ukraine’s long-term security and defense. The recovery list is long. 

Perhaps, too, Ukraine’s eventual recovery should not be a task for the entire democratic world, as Mr. Zelensky has suggested. Foreign powers could continue to provide financial assistance, as the Lugano Declaration suggests, but the principles that would underpin a post-war Ukraine should be decided by Ukrainians and not by bureaucrats convened at a foreign conference in a foreign land. While the declaration states that Ukraine will indeed steer the recovery process, recovery is to be linked to reforms dictated from on high.

One wonders, then, if Europe has so far learned much from the war. Would it be prepared to face another, eventual adversary? Or is it focused, still, on dogmas that are detached from reality — focused, still, on foisting them where it might? If the Lugano conference is any indication, then it would seem that the road ahead could yet be long, for both Ukraine and the West.

The New York Sun

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