The US Could Support Ukraine Using Frozen Russian Assets
There is still an untapped source of funds that could be used to support Ukraine in its war. These funds are the assets of the Russian Federation, frozen in the West due to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
This suggestion comes from The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens.
The legal basis for this lies in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) of 1977, which allows the United States to deal with frozen assets at its discretion. The IEEPA explicitly states that the President can "investigate," "block," "regulate," "direct and compel," "nullify," "void," and "prevent or prohibit" the transfer of ownership from one organization to another.
These powers relate to the transfer of "any rights, powers, or privileges" concerning property in which a foreign state has an interest and which falls under the jurisdiction of the United States.
"At present, Putin is officially a war criminal. Taking money from his regime isn't a right; it's a justifiable duty," writes the journalist.
He notes that previous presidents have exercised similar powers before: George H.W. Bush froze Iraqi assets in the United States after its invasion of Kuwait, eventually transferring them to the United Nations Compensation Commission for victims of Saddam Hussein's aggression.
In the West, approximately $300 billion in Russian assets has been frozen following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, while the total value of all US assistance to date does not exceed $100 billion.
Regarding the frozen Russian funds, "it's hard to imagine that they could be spent on anything other than assistance to Ukraine." So, according to Stephens, it might be wise not to keep them in accounts, waiting for an opportunity to invest in the country's recovery after the war but instead to strengthen Kyiv's effectiveness on the battlefield by funding arms purchases and supporting the Ukrainian budget from these Russian billions.
In international law, there is a well-established doctrine of "countermeasures," actions that might otherwise violate international law but are lawful "because they are taken against a state that is engaged in an internationally wrongful act." The principle is simple: violators of international law have no right to veto punishment for their violations.
"The Biden administration has achieved admirable results in assisting Ukraine, but overall, the decision on this has come a bit late," writes Stephens, asserting that using Russia's own money to aid in the fight against Russia is crucial.
"The moral logic is compelling. The legal justifications are clear. Now is the political moment," the journalist concludes.
As reported by The Gaze, since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Italian government has frozen Russian and Belarusian assets under sanctions worth over €2.3 billion. This primarily included numerous bank accounts, luxurious villas, yachts, and cars owned by individuals who sponsored Russia's aggressive war in Ukraine.