Sanctions imposed in late February by the Treasury Department on the Russian Central Bank froze its access to its US-based assets. The European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and other Western countries have also imposed similar sanctions on foreign reserve currencies that Russia’s central bank had hidden in their jurisdictions.
Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated at $630 billion at the end of January, but it’s unclear how much of that is now frozen in US-allied countries or held in the US and therefore vulnerable to seizure. . A March Congressional Research Service analysis estimated that about half of Russia’s central bank reserves are now frozen.
Enthusiasts and Skeptics
Congress has already demonstrated its willingness to use the frozen assets of Russian business executives close to President Vladimir Putin for the benefit of the Ukrainian people. The question is whether this will go so far as to attack the government assets of a sovereign nation.
On Wednesday, the House, by a vote of 417 to 8, passed a Malinowski law that would authorize the president to seize and liquidate assets worth more than $5 million belonging to foreigners already sanctioned by the United States and whose wealth comes in part from their support. of Putin. The proceeds from the sale of the assets would be used for the post-conflict reconstruction of Ukraine, the purchase of arms for the Ukrainian army and the provision of humanitarian aid and refugee aid to the people of Ukraine. .
Malinowski, who previously served as a senior human rights official at the State Department during the Obama administration, said he was “delighted” to see the administration in its new Ukraine funding request “adopting what basic principle that we should use the wealth that built Putin’s regime to rebuild the country that Putin is destroying.