Students Explore Trade-Offs for Ukraine's Recovery

Students work together in the RAND library and cafe, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND

Khrystyna Holynska, Jay Balagna, and Krystyna Marcinek meet to discuss their research

Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

May 5, 2023

In making decisions about reconstruction, the Ukrainian people and their government will face trade-offs regarding timelines, prioritization of efforts, leadership, and funding. Ukraine's decisionmakers and civil society will have to be mindful of these trade-offs, as there are no easy and universally beneficial solutions in recovery efforts of this magnitude. Being explicit and transparent about the risks and benefits of each option will be critical.

At the suggestion of RAND International and with the support of the RAND Center for Russia and Eurasia, three Pardee RAND students sought to advance the understanding of these trade-offs and their ramifications. Their goal was not only to improve the decisionmaking process but also to make it easier for the Ukrainian people and the broader international community to understand and accept the outcomes.

The students—Krystyna Marcinek (cohort '17), Khrystyna Holynska ('20), and Jay Balagna ('20)—sat down for a Q&A about their report, The Trade-Offs of Ukraine's Recovery: Fighting for the Future.

What does this study address?

Balagna: We looked to past RAND work in disaster recovery and broader scholarship to draw out important lessons we could contextualize to inform Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. We aimed to lay out the decisions and trade-offs that the Ukrainian people and their government will face when undertaking the country’s rebuilding.

Q: What are your areas of research, and how did you come to work on this study?

A: Marcinek: My research focuses on a range of security and defense topics, NATO, and Russia. Khrystyna, who is herself Ukrainian, also conducts research on deterrence, security, and diplomacy, and of course Russia and Ukraine. Jay's expertise lies in emergency preparedness and response.

Professor Krishna Kumar, who's also the vice president of RAND International, encouraged us to combine our expertise and work on this report.

“By providing a structured way of thinking through the trade-offs Ukraine will face, we hope this report will contribute to the transparency of this process.”

Q: What did you find exciting about this work?

A: Holynska: Given the magnitude of community and economic damage Ukraine has endured, restoring normality will be an immense challenge where prioritization and good governance will be necessary. This work aims to contribute to that process using RAND’s best practices of analytical rigor combined with our diverse backgrounds and expertise.

Q: What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

A: Marcinek: The war is unfortunately still ongoing, and there is a lot of uncertainty over when and how it may end. Understanding that many factors might dramatically change when the rebuilding process actually starts, we attempted to focus on more high-level tradeoffs that the Ukrainian government will likely face regardless of how the situation unfolds.

Q: What kind of global impact do you hope to see?

A: Holynska: By providing a structured way of thinking through the trade-offs Ukraine will face, we hope this report will contribute to the transparency of this process. Transparency, in turn, could ease the political tensions surrounding the reconstruction, thus denying Russia its goal of destroying Ukrainian statehood.

A: Balagna: In translating the lessons learned from RAND’s extensive disaster recovery experience to Ukraine’s context in the form of a brief report, we also hope to contribute to the evidence-based analysis of an issue that is likely to be dominated by the political “need for speed.”