NYT op-ed pitches an 'obvious solution' to crippling Vladimir Putin's financial stronghold

NYT op-ed pitches an 'obvious solution' to crippling Vladimir Putin's financial stronghold
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Presidential Press and Information Office

As Russian President Vladamir Putin adamantly pushes forward with his invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reports that investigators with the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are working to strategize seizing luxury Russian assets.

In Washington, D.C., bipartisan efforts are being made by lawmakers to determine the extent of power the federal government has when it comes to liquidating those assets. Reps. Tom Malinowski (R-N.J.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) have taken on that task. However, The NY Times' Laurence H. Tribe and Jeremy Lewin believe these efforts are not enough to make a bold statement. They are suggesting a different, yet more aggressive, approach; one they believe is staring government officials in the face.

"An obvious solution is staring us in the face," they wrote. "President Biden could liquidate the tens of billions of dollars the Russian central bank has parked in the United States as part of its foreign exchange reserves; by some estimates, those funds may total as much as $100 billion."

Tribe and Lewin went on to explain why this move could be substantial. "These assets are already frozen at the Federal Reserve and other banks thanks to Treasury sanctions banning transactions with the Russian central bank," they wrote. "With new details of Russian atrocities making the prospect of lifting those sanctions increasingly untenable, those funds have, in effect, been seized indefinitely."

So, why is it important for the government to act quickly? Tribe and Lewin explained why. "Liquidating them now would not only be likely the fastest way to increase American aid to Ukraine without further burdening and fatiguing American taxpayers," they explained. "It would also send a potent signal that the United States is committed to making even the world’s most powerful states pay for their war crimes."

While the idea seems plausible, they also acknowledged why it has not been attempted." The seemingly radical character of this step explains why it has not been taken already, but, contrary to recent misapprehensions, it would be anything but 'unprecedented.'"

However, they believe its a justifiable move. "The Russian government would no doubt complain bitterly that liquidating its currency reserves was 'thievery,' just as it did with the existing sanctions. But Russia’s continued violation of the most basic principles of international law and human rights — and the Ukrainian people’s dire needs — must count for more than its self-serving rhetoric."

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