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Russia Must Pay Reparations

Vladimir Putin's war of aggression in Ukraine offers ample grounds for G7 countries to seize Russian assets within their jurisdictions to finance postwar reconstruction. These funds should be administered through a new multilateral body to ensure full transparency and sound public procurement.

WASHINGTON, DC – While Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine have been bogged down, Ukrainian forces have started regaining territory. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense issues daily reports on how many military assets Russia has lost. Three weeks after Russia’s invasion, the ministry said that 15,600 Russian soldiers had been killed – as many as the Soviet Union lost during nine years of war in Afghanistan. The Ukrainians claim that they have taken out 40% of the 120 Russian battalion tactical groups deployed to Ukraine. The Russian army appears to be close to its breaking point and may yet be chased out of Ukraine.

Though it is far too early to declare any kind of victory, it is not too early to start thinking about what to do for Ukraine after Russian forces depart. Following Ukraine’s two previous national mobilizations – the Orange Revolution in 2004 and Euromaidan in 2014 – the momentum behind reform quickly petered out. This time, the West needs to do more to help Ukraine get across the finish line, as Poland and others did after 1989.

Russia’s indiscriminate bombing and similar terrorist tactics have generated massive losses. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s economic adviser, Oleg Ustenko, estimates that the damage to his country already exceeds $100 billion – a reasonable tally, though it cannot yet be verified. The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies puts the cost of restoring the occupied Donbas region at $22 billion; and Ukrainian corporate claims at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague amount to about $10 billion. All these are claims on the Russian Federation, which should be compelled to pay reparations to Ukraine.