Who loses and who makes money in the war in Ukraine

Henryk A. Kowalczyk
7 min readFeb 26, 2024

Those who make money on wars are unlikely to be on Forbes’ richest list. Their money is real but elusive to an observer’s eye. Most of us will feel the pain of paying for that war.

Congress is midway through approving the next chunk of funds for the Ukrainian cause. With a lot of yelling and screaming several days ago, the U.S. Senate approved the funding. The House is more divided on this issue, so the outcome of the arm-twisting expected next week is still uncertain. The media bombard the public with conflicting messages. Who lies, who tells the truth?

Before touching on arguments for and against, it is worth examining how money factors into the war business.

War is the best business possible, but not for those on the front lines

When the foundations of the modern financial system began shaping in the 18th century, the rich realized that lending money to governments, at that time often kings or local rulers, was much more profitable than lending to individuals. Nothing has changed since then.

Earning interest on money lent to individuals is risky and troublesome. A million things may happen, making a person insolvent. Collecting debt can be costly. Also, to make meaningful money, one needs to manage many transactions. It is hard to avoid mistakes.

Lending money to governments is the financiers’ dream. The nation’s economy serves as collateral. Even if the rulers change, the new ones need money as well. So, people are taxed to pay both the previous and new loans.

In old times, kings needed money for wars. Usually in a hurry and in quantity. It is the best way for lenders to earn high profits. Financing a war is bad for publicity, so no one brags about it. Historians digging into old records are gaining insight into who paid for wars fought in the 1800s and how. There are publications about money flows during World Wars I and II. Still, there are more assumptions and speculations than verifiable facts.

After the shock of atrocities committed during WWII, worldwide public opinion was for forming an international order preventing wars. It seemed to work to some degree. Once aggressors, Germany and Japan joined the peaceful community of nations. Despite a few…



Henryk A. Kowalczyk

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