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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Efforts Continue: West Still Trying to Move Frozen Russian Assets to Ukraine, 2 Years Later

Unlocking Frozen Assets: A Controversial Proposal Gains Traction Amidst Ukrainian Funding Uncertainty

Nearly two years have passed since the United States and its allies froze around $300 billion in Russian Central Bank funds as a response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The unused funds have been a subject of debate, with officials considering the legality of redirecting the money to Ukraine. The proposal is gaining momentum as ongoing allied support for Ukraine faces uncertainties, and the U.S. Congress grapples with providing additional assistance. However, the weaponization of global finance raises concerns about potential repercussions on the U.S. dollar’s global dominance.

President Zelenskyy’s Call for Action

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged for a decisive decision on directing the frozen assets in Western banks towards Ukraine’s defense and reconstruction. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Zelenskyy emphasized the potential impact on Russian President Putin, stating, “The more billions he and his oligarchs, friends and accomplices lose, the more likely he will regret starting this war.”

Shift in Biden Administration’s Stance

While the Biden administration had initially dismissed the idea as legally challenging, there is a growing openness to the proposal. Penny Pritzker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, acknowledged the ongoing search for a suitable legal framework at the Davos forum. She emphasized the complexity of the issue, stating, “Get all the lawyers and all the various governments and all the parties really to come together to sort that through. It’s hard, it’s complicated, it’s difficult, and we need to work.”

Legislative Considerations

Bipartisan legislation named the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act is circulating in Washington. The legislation proposes using assets confiscated from the Russian Central Bank and other sovereign assets for Ukraine. While the administration is generally supportive of such legislation, caution is advised, and discussions are ongoing with allies to ensure a coordinated approach.

Challenges and Trade-Offs

Experts highlight the potential trade-offs and challenges associated with seizing frozen assets. Nicholas Mulder, a sanctions expert at Cornell University, cautions that using these assets as a substitute rather than a complement to long-term Western support for Ukraine may undermine sustained funding efforts. The concern is that once the seized funds run out, rallying political support for Ukraine may become more challenging.

Also Read: Antony Blinken Faces Travel Disruption After Plane Incident in Davos

Financial Landscape and International Implications

The U.S. had initially blocked over $600 billion held by Russia outside its borders, with approximately $300 billion belonging to Russia’s Central Bank. Continued sanctions and targeted measures have been imposed on entities with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The World Bank’s damage assessment estimates Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery costs at $411 billion over the next decade.

Legal and Diplomatic Complexities

The proposal to seize Russian assets faces legal and diplomatic complexities. While some efforts have been made to confiscate funds in specific circumstances, the broader implications on the global financial system are a cause for concern. Administrative decisions to confiscate assets may raise questions about the rule of law and protection of private property.

Current Initiatives and Cautionary Measures

Efforts to seize Russian funds are underway in limited scenarios, with some funds already directed towards rebuilding Ukraine. Belgium, holding the EU presidency, is leading talks on asset seizure. However, EU countries are wary of potential legal challenges and destabilization of the financial system.

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