icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
20 Apr, 2024 17:53

US House approves gifting seized Russian assets to Ukraine

The move has been described by critics as an act of “economic war” against Moscow
US House approves gifting seized Russian assets to Ukraine

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill authorizing the government to liquidate seized Russian assets and transfer the proceeds to Ukraine. It also includes measures forcing the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owners and authorizing stricter sanctions on Russia, China, and Iran.

The bill was passed by 360 votes to 58 on Saturday. Known as the 21st Century Peace through Strength Act, it rolled together a number of previously disparate bills, most notably the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act (REPO), which allows the administration of US President Joe Biden to confiscate billions of dollars’ worth of Russian assets held by American banks and transfer them to Ukraine.

The US and EU have blocked an estimated $300 billion in assets belonging to the Russian central bank since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. The vast majority of these assets are held in Europe, but American banks are sitting on around $6 billion, according to multiple reports in US media outlets. 

At present, the US has no legal mechanism to seize these assets, and has moved relatively paltry sums of seized Russian money to Estonia for use in Ukraine. 

While the bill passed with bipartisan support, it was strongly condemned by fiscal conservatives and anti-war Republicans. US Senator Rand Paul warned earlier this year that “confiscating Russia’s sovereign assets is an act of economic war” that would undermine global confidence in the US.

The International Monetary Fund issued a similar warning on Friday, while the Kremlin has declared that any actions taken against its assets would amount to flagrant “theft.”

The Peace Through Strength Act also included a measure that would ban TikTok if the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not sell off its US operations.

The FBI and Federal Communications Commission have long maintained that TikTok passes user data to the Chinese government. The company has denied the allegations. 

Beijing has argued that forcing a sale “runs contrary to the principles of fair competition and international economic and trade rules.”

The bill also authorizes additional economic sanctions on Russia, China, and Iran.

In a series of separate votes on Saturday, the House approved massive military aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, which along with the Peace Through Strength Act will now be combined into a single bill and sent to the Senate for approval. Totaling $95 billion, the legislation will provide $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, $26 billion to Israel, and $8 billion to Taiwan and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

House Speaker Mike Johnson relied on support from Democrats to bring the bills to the House floor, but the decision may cost him his job. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), an ardent opponent of funding for Ukraine, has filed a motion to remove Johnson from the speakership. Posting on X (formerly Twitter) after Saturday’s vote, Greene called the aid “despicable,” and said that the US “should be demanding peace, not funding the military industrial complex’s blood money wars fueled by dead bodies in Ukraine.”