The case for sending Russia's frozen $300 billion to Ukraine
Under international law, Russian state assets can be used to compensate Ukraine for Moscow's aggression
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Russia’s assault on Ukraine has become a brutal war of attrition—militarily but also economically and socially. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognizes the nature of this struggle. Ukraine, having lost one-third of its GDP, with one-third of its population already displaced and the lights flickering on and off, could win battles and still lose the war.
Ukraine’s allies have rallied to its aid with armaments, but they have faltered on the decisive economic front. Using the approximately $300 billion in Russian central bank assets that were frozen by Western governments at the war’s onset would show Putin he cannot outlast Ukraine and the West economically. There is elegant justice in using Russia’s state funds, now lying idle, to counter the costs of Moscow’s destruction. Plans have been prepared, with ways to avoid corruption and linked to the European Union. That would be a strategy of hope.
Last month, the leaders of every state in the European Union, hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees, announced that the E.U. will “support Ukraine’s reconstruction, for which we will strive to use frozen and immobilised Russian assets in accordance with EU and international law.” They added measures to trace all those assets in their countries. Canada has already enacted its own legislation to move ahead.
In the Group of Seven, all now look for U.S. leadership. To its credit, the United States spends billions per month in emergency aid just to help Kyiv pay its monthly bills. But this is not sustainable, and it does not seriously begin the tasks of recovery and reconstruction. Transferring frozen Russian reserves would be morally right, strategically wise and politically expedient — particularly with a restive U.S. Congress.