Mikhail Katkov, Alena Kazakova
The Americans decided to send two million dollars from the arrested Russian assets to help Ukraine. It is not the first time for them to take someone else’s property: seven billion were taken from Afghanistan, and an order of magnitude more from Iran. If Washington goes into a rage, Moscow will lose a lot.
The US House of Repre-sentatives approved a bill allowing the use of frozen Russian funds to support Ukraine and “democratize Russia” (417 congressmen in favor, eight against).
For starters, they called on President Joe Biden to sell luxury goods arrested under sanctions, writes The New York Times. True, the bill depriving asset owners of the right to challenge these actions did not pass, but it’s too early to rejoice.
Biden said he was sending a package of proposals to Congress to counter the Russian oligarchs. “We will do everything to deprive them of the money they have accumulated… New mechanisms will be created to carry out seizures and confiscations of this property. We are doing everything so that when selling oligarchic assets, the proceeds will go directly to eliminate the damage caused to Ukraine,” Biden stressed.
In addition, the State Department is considering the possibility of recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova promised that Moscow would respond to all Washington’s decisions, even such “idiotic” ones.
Back in mid-April, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the frozen assets would not be returned to Russian businessmen. At the same time, he himself classified it as a “capture”.
And Washington, most likely, will not be limited to two million. The Americans froze one hundred billion dollars belonging to the Central Bank of Russia, but lying on the accounts of the FRS. The head of the State Department, Anthony Blinken, does not hide the fact that the White House is considering how to send them to Kyiv. Legal subtleties get in the way.
Zelensky’s appetites are even greater: he is counting on $400 billion from the funds of the Central Bank and Russian billionaires.
Robbery in broad daylight
Last year, after fleeing the Taliban, the Americans froze about seven billion dollars in Afghanistan. They explained that this would serve as a diplomatic lever to put pressure on Kabul.
Part of the funds was sent to compensate families affected by the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the rest will go to humanitarian aid. The Taliban called it a robbery, but Washington was not at all embarrassed. They cite twenty years of US and allied investment in the Afghan economy. Although even UN Secretary General António Guterres demanded the return of this money, since the country “hangs in the balance.”
In addition, the Americans abandoned military equipment in Afghanistan for about the same seven billion. At least that’s what CNN reported, pointing to the Pentagon’s report to lawmakers. Military planes and vehicles, weapons, ammunition and communications equipment ended up in the hands of the Taliban.
Iran didn’t even get that. The assets frozen after the 1979 Islamic revolution are estimated at $100-120 billion. Moreover, the funds are not only in the United States, but also in China, South Korea, Luxembourg, Japan and Iraq. Most of it comes from oil.
The revolution toppled Washington-friendly Shah Mohammed Pahlavi. The US Embassy in Tehran was seized, 66 Americans were taken hostage. The last of them was released only at the end of 1981.
No court, no money
“Such actions of the American side are outside any international legal framework. Obviously, this line will continue further, they will take steps that previously seemed impossible,” believes international lawyer Dmitry Romanenko. “Of course, there will be talk of retaliatory measures. Russia can leave reserve the right to seize the assets of both individuals and legal entities of the United States in the country.”
He doubts that the decision of the congress will be challenged, since “no one will hesitate to put pressure” on international courts – and, of course, not in favor of Russia.
“The idea to use the Russian frozen three hundred billion dollars was expressed in Kyiv, and then picked up in Washington,” notes Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “But it turned out that there are certain legal barriers to this. It’s one thing to freeze accounts, quite another “to spend the funds available for them. National authorities or judicial authorities are not enough for this.”
According to him, this has never happened before. “Yes, it reminds of the situation with Afghanistan, but the Taliban is a banned terrorist organization. This can be considered a semi-precedent. Usually, funds are frozen, as with Iran, and then the issue of their return is decided. Or these assets are held indefinitely, using for economic offsets,” the expert adds.
Russian money can also be transferred to EU countries that have accepted Ukrainian refugees. At the same time, the interlocutor of RIA Novosti doubts that these funds will be spent for their intended purpose.
“The Americans are starting with pilot projects, not risking immediately announcing that they will spend all three hundred billion. However, if cut into pieces, then gradually it will seem legitimate. Now they will take the first tranche, send it to Ukraine for humanitarian aid or something else. increase the amounts. The public will get used to it,” says Vasiliev.
Washington is setting an extremely dangerous precedent in global financial practice. And no country can be sure that its savings are safe.