White House to propose seizing assets of Russian oligarchs and redistributing them to assist Ukraine

White House to propose seizing assets of Russian oligarchs and redistributing them to assist Ukraine

More than two months have passed since Russian forces invaded Ukraine — an invasion that, for all the misery and suffering it has inflicted on Ukraine, hasn’t gone nearly as well for Russia as President Vladimir Putin expected. Although U.S. President Joe Biden has adamantly opposed sending American troops into Ukraine to fight, he has waged an aggressive economic campaign against Russia with the help of the United States’ European NATO allies. And on Thursday, April 28, the Biden White House announced a proposal that, the Washington Post reports, would “allow U.S. authorities to liquidate the assets of Russian oligarchs and donate the proceeds to Ukraine.”

The Biden White House’s proposal, according to Post reporters Bryan Pietsch, Jeff Stein and Matt Viser, seeks to expand “America’s financial war on the Kremlin amid bipartisan pressure in Congress.”

“President Biden will send the new plan to Congress along with a broader request for $33 billion to help the Ukrainians fight Russia’s invasion,” the Post journalists explain. “Biden’s funding request includes $20 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $8.5 billion in economic assistance and $3 billion in humanitarian aid, among other pots of money, such as $500 million to support production of U.S. crops to address the global food shock caused by the war.”

The Biden White House, according to Pietsch, Stein and Viser, “has not revealed the legislative text behind its Russian oligarchs proposal but said the proposal ‘would improve’ the federal government’s ability to send seized funds to Ukraine.”

“Under current law,” the reporters note, “the United States can typically only freeze — not seize or liquidate — the assets of sanctioned individuals.”

In an outline of its plan, the Biden White House explained, “This package of proposals will establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine, and further strengthen related law enforcement tools.”

But some allies of President Joe Biden have urged him to proceed with caution when it comes to targeting the assets of Russian oligarchs.

Janet L. Yellen, secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department and former chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, recently told reporters, “I would say that is very significant, and it is one that we would carefully need to think through the consequences of before undertaking it. I wouldn’t want to do so lightly, and it’s something that I think our coalition and partners would need to feel comfortable with and be supportive of.”

Russian troops launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and since then, more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, according to the United Nations. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has estimated that the number of Russian troops killed during the conflict is somewhere between 7000 and 15,000, and the Ukraine invasion of 2022 is the worst military conflict in Europe since World War 2 — which ended in 1945.

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