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22 Dec, 2023 09:55

US wants $300 billion of Russian assets for Ukraine – NYT

Washington is reportedly pressing its partners for a strategy before the second anniversary of the start of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev
US wants $300 billion of Russian assets for Ukraine – NYT

The White House has reportedly begun “urgent” discussions with Western allies on seizing frozen Russian assets and using them to help Ukraine, according to the New York Times on Thursday, citing anonymous sources. The alleged move comes as the West struggles to greenlight new aid packages for Kiev.

The administration of US President Joe Biden “is quietly signaling new support” for taking over $300 billion in Russian foreign exchange reserves that were blocked by Western nations after the start of the Ukraine conflict, according to unnamed American and European officials interviewed by the newspaper.

Some US officials have expressed concerns that such a drastic move would undermine the country’s credibility as a major financial hub. However, the Biden administration, in coordination with the G7, is now “taking another look” at whether it could sidestep Congressional approval to use the funds, the NYT reported.

Talks among officials, bankers, and lawyers are said to have gathered steam in recent weeks, with Washington reportedly pressing several of its allies to come up with a strategy by February 24 to mark the second anniversary of the start of the Ukraine conflict.

No final decision has been made on the matter, according to the newspaper. Debates are ongoing on the details and whether the frozen funds would be sent directly to Ukraine – notorious for its rampant corruption – or used in some other way to help Kiev, it added.

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said it was “too soon to say” when asked if the White House was contemplating the move.

The discussions come after the US Congress shelved talks on a new $60 billion assistance package for Kiev until next year. White House officials have warned that Washington is rapidly running out of authorized funds to funnel to the embattled country.

Moscow has repeatedly denounced the freezing of its funds abroad, warning that any seizure would be “illegal” and in violation of “all possible rules.” 

Russian MP Mikhail Sheremet has also suggested initiating a legal procedure for seizing US assets in the country, should Washington go ahead with the requisition.

Russia has always respected the principle of immunity for assets, Sheremet insisted, arguing that Western actions may not leave it with much choice. “Any criminal decision [by the US] would be followed by a proportionate response and punishment,” the MP warned.