strain23_Dmytro Smolienko  UkrinformFuture Publishing via Getty Images_ukraine damage Dmytro Smolienko / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images
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Yes, Russian Reserves Should Be Seized

The United States’ retreat from global leadership has weakened its alliances and emboldened despots like Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the US can start to repair some of this damage by demonstrating that it is willing to seize warmongers’ assets to compensate their victims.

WASHINGTON, DC – Following Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine 24 months ago, Western governments – including the United States – froze around $300 billion of Russian central-bank assets, or roughly half of the country’s total foreign currency and gold reserves at the time. The aim was to prevent the Kremlin from using those funds as part of its war chest or to blunt the impact of US and European economic sanctions.

The freeze on Russian assets was an aggressive component of the Western response. But some officials and commentators want to go further, by seizing the assets and using them for Ukraine’s reconstruction. This month, Nikki Haley, who is challenging Donald Trump in the Republican primary contest, announced her support for such a move. Russian President Vladimir Putin “is a war criminal and thug who invaded a free country,” she told Bloomberg News. He therefore must “pay the price for his actions.”

To that end, Haley is supporting the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act, an unprecedented piece of legislation approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month by a 20-to-one vote. If REPO becomes law, it would be the first time the US has seized the central-bank assets of a country with which it is not at war.