Harvard Law professor says US should liquidate Russia’s foreign reserves and use the money to fund military aid to Ukraine
Jake Epstein – April 19, 2022
- Russia may have up to $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves sitting in the US.
- A Harvard Law School professor is now suggesting that Biden liquidates the assets.
- The money could be used to quickly unlock military aid for Ukraine.
A Harvard Law School professor suggested recently that the US should liquidate Russia’s foreign reserves and use the money to fund Ukrainian military aid.
Russia’s central bank may have up to $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves sitting in the US and liquidating the funds may be an “obvious solution” to punishing Russia for its unprovoked war against Ukraine, constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe and Harvard Law student Jeremy Lewin wrote in a New York Times op-ed published on Friday.
When the US Treasury banned transactions with Russia a few days after President Vladimir Putin’s February 24 war declaration against Ukraine, Russia’s assets sitting in the Federal Reserve and other banks were frozen.
Liquidating the funds could be a quick way to unlock money to provide military aid for Ukraine, while also saving American taxpayers from feeling “burdened,” Tribe and Lewin wrote.
Tribe and Lewin said such a move by President Joe Biden would also show that the US is “committed to making even the world’s most powerful states pay for their war crimes.”
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of committing war crimes in the wake of the recent discovery of mass civilian killings in the Kyiv suburb Bucha.
In response, international organizations started investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity, the EU ramped up its sanctions on Russia, and the US unlocked hundreds of millions in military aid for Ukraine.
Liquidating Russia’s funds would come at a particularly urgent time for Ukraine’s military, Tribe and Lewin wrote, as a renewed Russian offensive takes shape in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
While the US seizing Russian mansions and yachts is significant, the duo argued, the process of selling them to make money would be too slow.
They also added that coming after Russia’s frozen funds — which, unlike assets of oligarchs, are state-owned — means the US can skirt legal protections for what it otherwise private property.
If the US were to make the move, it would not be the first time it made a foreign government physically pay for its actions.
And as recently as February, Biden unlocked billions in funds from Afghanistan’s central bank that were frozen after the Taliban seized control of the country last year.