FOUN statement on Making Putin Pay: The Case for Transferring Russian Sovereign Assets to Ukraine

October 18, 2023

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On Wednesday, October 18, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a Roundtable Discussion on Making Putin Pay: The Case for Transferring Russian Sovereign Assets to Ukraine.

One of the “witnesses” at the Roundtable was Dr. Philip Zelikow of FOUN’s Reimagining, Reconstruction, and Recovery of Ukraine Task Force.

As this was a Roundtable Discussion and not a hearing there was no official record, but the Reimagining, Reconstruction, and Recovery of Ukraine Task Force did provide a statement to the Committee, its Members, the press, and others in attendance.

House Foreign Affairs Committee

Roundtable Discussion on Making Putin Pay:

The Case for Transferring Russian Sovereign Assets to Ukraine

October 18, 2023

       Mr. Chairman and members of the committee the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) has provided recommendations for U.S. assistance to Ukraine to Congress and the Executive for almost 10 years beginning immediately after Russia invaded Crimea.  Today FOUN’s Reimagining, Reconstruction, and Recovery of Ukraine Task Force provides this statement of the record for your Roundtable.

       FOUN appreciates and agrees with the proposal in your legislation H.R. 4175 Mr. Chairman and note among the co-sponsors are co-chairs and others from the Congressional Ukraine Caucus.

       In addition FOUN reminds that in the Friends of Ukraine Network Priority Recommendations for U.S. Assistance to Ukraine for 2023, published last March the Task Force stated (edited with additional information about amounts of Russian assets and locations):

       Since Russia has launched this war of aggression, Russia must pay war reparations.

       On November 14, 2022, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a strong resolution holding Russia accountable and compelling it to pay war reparations to Ukraine.  It stated that Russia must “bear the legal consequences of all of its internationally wrongful acts, including making reparation for the injury, including any damage, caused by such acts.” This resolution recognized that an international institution should be created to implement this compensation to be set up in cooperation with Ukraine.  It also recommended the creation of an international register of damage to start recording claims. The Kyiv School of Economics and the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development have already established such a registry.

       Fortunately, Ukraine’s Western allies can force Russia to pay war reparations to Ukraine because in February 2022 the G7 immobilized the international currency reserves of the Central Bank of Russia held in the West.  These reserves are the indisputable property of the Russian state, which is responsible for the war crimes in Ukraine.  They are liquid, and their transfer to escrow accounts requires a minimum of legislative work.  

G7 ministers have acknowledged that they have located $280 billion of Russia state assets so far.  The EU announced in May 2023 that EU countries held 215 billion Euro (then about $230 billion worth) of this total, of which 90 percent is held in Belgium.  U.S. Special Representatives Penny Pritzker has recently stated that only $8 billion is held in the United States.

-       The G7 should act on the UN resolution passed last November.  It should identify and transfer all Russian state assets to central bank escrow accounts or equivalent.

-       The transfer to escrow accounts follows the precedent followed for Iraqi state assets in 1992.  In the U.S. this can be done right away without new legislation under the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

-       The G7 countries should analyze and consider the eventual allocation of all the Russian assets held in escrow.

-       A program should be elaborated to compensate Ukraine and other injured claimants in a major program of recovery and reconstruction.

Members of FOUN’s Reimagining, Reconstruction, and Recovery of Ukraine Task Force are:

Anders Aslund, Chair

       Swedish economist and former Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a chairman of the International Advisory Council at the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)

Edward Chow

       Internationally recognized energy expert

Professor Daron Acemoglu

       Institute Professor and Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics MIT

Professor Charles Becker

       Research Professor of Economics, Duke University

Ambassador Daniel Fried

       Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Weiser Family Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council.

Professor Joseph Hughes

University Distinguished Professor of Engineering Drexel University, Diplomat, by Eminence, of the American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Science, and Fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

Professor Simon Johnson

       Former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund, Ronald A. Kutz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management

Ambassador Richard Morningstar

       Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan, Founding Chairman, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

Nadia K. McConnell

       President & Co-Founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, former Director of Congressional Relations, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and former Deputy Assistant Administrator of NASA

Irina Paliashvili

       President, RULG-Ukrainian Legal Group

Ambassador Kurt Volker

       Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Distinguished Fellow, CEPA

Morgan Williams

       President & CEO of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)

Dr. Philip Zelikow

       Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, executive director of the 9/11 Commission and Counselor of the United States Department of State

Robert B. Zoellick

       Former President of the World Bank, former managing director of Goldman Sachs, United States Deputy Secretary of State, and U.S. Trade Representatives

Contact: Robert A. McConnell

      Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Director External Relations, FOUN

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