eichengreen180_Universal History ArchiveUIG via Getty images)_versailles Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

Russia and the Long Shadow of Versailles

Garnishing Russia’s frozen assets to help finance Ukraine's reconstruction would give the Kremlin a powerful propaganda tool with which to paint Russia as the victim, rather than the aggressor. But it is arguably a better option than imposing ongoing reparations payments.

NEW DELHI – The debate over using frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction is coming to a head. The arguments in favor are compelling. The objections are weak. But there could also be unintended consequences.

Canada has passed legislation allowing Russian assets to be redeployed on behalf of Ukraine. In the United States, four members of Congress have introduced legislation to repurpose sovereign Russian assets for Ukraine. And European Union leaders considered the issue at their recent summit, though German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and others expressed concern that any such action might violate international law.

The arguments in favor of seizing frozen Russian assets have been conveniently assembled in one place by Lawrence Summers, Philip Zelikow, and Robert Zoellick. Russia possesses the means to finance reconstruction. A vigorous economy will be postwar Ukraine’s best defense. Truth and justice are on Ukraine’s side. Other strongmen tempted to emulate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imperialism will be deterred.