Utilizing Seized Russian State Assets: A New Approach to Peace in Ukraine?

The quest for peace in Ukraine is a universal desire, but some individuals who identify as “antiwar” have expressed skepticism towards official claims. These skeptics argue that the United States should cease fulfilling Kyiv’s demands for weapons and instead pursue peace through a strategy that involves betraying Ukraine. They believe that Ukraine should make territorial concessions to Russia in order to achieve peace. However, this approach is seen by many as rewarding the aggressor and setting a dangerous precedent.

A different proposal has emerged among proponents of peace. Instead of advocating for territorial concessions, these individuals suggest using reparations through the seizure of Russian state assets. This strategy could potentially increase the cost of war for Russia and contribute to a lasting peace in Ukraine.

Critics of the immediate peace approach, which includes demands for Ukraine to relinquish land in exchange for peace, view it as naive and lacking in sensible realpolitik. Surrendering territory to an imperial aggressor may only temporarily halt the conflict, allowing the aggressor to regroup and pursue further ambitions in the future. Those who advocate for an immediate peace imposed by the US are seen as closer to imperialism than to the antiwar movements of the past.

The proponents of the reparations proposal argue that Western governments should utilize frozen Russian state assets to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, which has been targeted during the conflict. This approach seeks to make the aggressor bear the financial burden of the harm inflicted and aims to influence the outcome of the war. The logic behind this proposal is simple: the more money Russia loses, the more likely it may be to withdraw from Ukraine without making further territorial demands. Additionally, this approach serves as a deterrent, sending a message to potential aggressors that flouting international order comes with significant costs.

The reparations proposal has gained support from influential figures, including former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former World Bank President Robert Zoellick. In Congress, legislation supporting this idea has been introduced with bipartisan support. While the Biden administration has authorized transfers of assets from Russian oligarchs to Ukraine, it has not yet touched Russia’s Central Bank foreign currency reserves. Critics urge policymakers to consider this alternative path to peace, as it could be morally sound, strategic, and politically expedient for resolving the conflict in Ukraine.

In conclusion, the proposal to utilize seized Russian state assets for reparations offers an alternative to territorial concessions. This approach has the potential to increase the cost of war for Russia and provide leverage for achieving a lasting peace. As the conflict in Ukraine persists, policymakers face the challenge of finding effective strategies to end the war and promote stability in the region. Exploring the reparations proposal could be a worthwhile avenue towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis.

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