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According to this about $1 trillion dollars of Russian assets have been frozen by the international community

This money is currently 'frozen', not 'taken' i.e. there's an expectation that it will at some point be given back once Russia starts behaving itself.

By what mechanism might some (or all) of these assets be allocated to Ukraine as war reparations?

Currently Russia is supported only by Syria, China and Venezuela. Most of the rest of world is either firmly in the Ukrainian camp, or discretely keeping quiet.

War reparation's have been imposed in the past, but have always been future-dated (by this I mean the country penalised was told "you need to pay war-reparations of $xxx over the next ??? years") and they always required the agreement (albeit reluctant) of the country making the payment.

Bearing in mind the old axiom 'possession is nine-tenths of the law' and the overwhelming majority of countries against Russia, can't the international community just take the money and give it to Ukraine to help re-build their country?

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    China is not exactly supportive. More supportive than India, but not by much. bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-60615280
    – Fizz
    Mar 6 at 13:36
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    Please note, that that "international community" is basically Nato countries, which are only technically not at war (supplying weapons and "volunteers", just like Russia did it in 2014), and they comprise less than 15% of the world population. And the bigger countries who are neutral (like China) are no fans of Nato, but stay neutral because they have nothing to gain from diplomatic incidents. At such a stage global politics is not about "fairness" but about interests. Just for the sake of context.
    – vsz
    Mar 7 at 5:19
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    Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, DRC, and many other large countries also voted to condemn the invasion. So it's hardly just Nato who oppose the war.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 7 at 17:07

4 Answers 4

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For reparations to be meaningfully paid towards rebuilding Ukraine, Russia would have to be militarily defeated and driven out.

Short of that, they'll probably negotiate with the West an unfreezing/return of their assets in return for some concessions in Ukraine... or elsewhere. Remember, they could still easily occupy non-NATO countries like Moldova etc., which their armies are presently headed for. (Like Moldova, Georgia also is suddenly pressing for EU membership. So we might see a 2nd invasion of that country, if Putin feels like doing it.)

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    For reparations to be meaningfully paid towards rebuilding Ukraine, Russia would have to be militarily defeated and driven out. - is that all that would be required? Are you implying that if the Russian army is repelled they would automatically pay reparations? What would happen in other scenarios like Russia deciding the invasion was too costly and leaving? Or Ukraine depleting Russia's entire conventional army but not themselves attacking Russian land? Is it a given that Russia would pay reparations in those scenarios?
    – stevec
    Mar 7 at 0:36
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    @stevec Not to impose here, but I'm almost sure the meaning there was "If the Russian army is not repelled, then reparations aren't happening".
    – user45266
    Mar 7 at 5:19
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    @user45266 : and even if the Russian army has to retreat from Ukraine, but Russian soil is not in danger to be invaded, then it's not happening either.
    – vsz
    Mar 7 at 5:27
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    @stevec: I didn't discuss it because it's impossible for foresee the minutia of such scenarios. But generally, from past wars, reparations weren't paid or even on the table unless one side was utterly defeated and so had almost nothing to bargain with against the prospect of paying those reparations. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_reparations for a list.
    – Fizz
    Mar 7 at 6:27
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    @stevec I think Fizz only set out to describe a necessary condition, not a sufficient one
    – Chris H
    Mar 7 at 15:03
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It would take a whole lot of foolishness by the parts of the international community - Ukraine excepted - supporting the idea.

The last thing one wants to do is to corner Putin and Russia into a do-or-die situation where they perceive losing as an existential threat. Right now, there is nothing really significant to be gained by Russia in persevering in Ukraine, except avoiding a loss of face.

Let's not take steps to change that calculation.

This, needless to say, is based entirely on Russia's possession of nuclear weapons. Along with a dash and a smidgen of remembering that Western countries do occasionally bomb other countries and would fight back tooth and nail to avoid making such reparations themselves.

The way out, completely unhindered and very attractive, should be left wide open and welcoming to Putin.

(If it looks like I am not answering the question, it is because I am challenging the desirability of this action. A frame shift.)

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  • Comments deleted. If you want to debate the war, please do that in the chatroom.
    – Philipp
    Mar 8 at 11:52
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Historically, reparations were imposed by the winners on the losers, often as part of an armistice or peace treaty. The 'leverage' in such negotiations was to continue warfare. There seems to be no prospect of such things happening anytime soon.

The confiscation of enemy assets during wartime has also been common for a long time. It would be silly to shoot at a country and still faithfully send over dividends on their investments. But the rights of neutrals were carefully protected by customary international law.

The sanctions happening now are something else. A government orders their banks not to pay money owed to a different country which is not at war at this time. In slightly different circumstances, the name for that is default, and a default makes it very difficult to find new investors afterwards. These are not ordinary times, but 'the West' is seriously hurting their reputation as a reliable financial partner right now, at least in the eyes of 'non-Western' countries. The US can get away with such things more easily than, say, Liechtenstein could, simply because of the size of the American economy, but it is walking a thin line. The world won't forget the outright theft of Russian deposits unless it is clear to everybody (and not just 'the West') that Russia is at fault.

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    How exactly is Russia an enemy? Is there a war declaration? Is Ukraine in Nato? Freezing their assets is completely illegal and indeed unusual. Mar 6 at 19:39
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    It's not "theft", because the deposits have only been frozen, not repossessed. Forced sale of FCs and F1 teams may be a different story. But freezing assets due to sanctions has a long history (c.f. Iran, also Russia) without any major loss of confidence in the Western financial system. Mar 6 at 21:03
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    @user1721135 You wonder how Russia is an enemy? They weren't before, and NATO states all wound down their militaries because of that. Putin has explicitly declared Russia an enemy of NATO though, and when the leader of a country declares that his country is your enemy, you have to believe him.
    – Graham
    Mar 6 at 22:25
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    @Graham, NATO has been careful not to declare war on Russia. Under interational law, one can deplore a war and still not join.
    – o.m.
    Mar 7 at 5:13
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    @o.m. Your answer wasn't concerned with whether anyone else declared war, it was whether Russia was recognised as being at fault by the whole world. They are. We don't need to declare war to recognize that. And we can take appropriate defensive measures against someone who's declared themselves our enemy without declaring war and attacking ourselves.
    – Graham
    Mar 7 at 8:35
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The assets are currently frozen by the US, EU and a few other countries in the "officially neutral" bloc. The question essentially asks if these frozen assets can be assigned to Ukraine instead of Russia.

Assigning frozen Russian assets to Ukraine of course damage trade relations between Russia and the sanctioning countries. Russia will likely demand the full return of all its frozen assets as a precondition to resuming trade with them. On the other hand, the sanctioning countries are probably in no big hurry - the sanctions hurt Russia more.

This means neither side can really force the other to concede. A stalemate is quite possible, where the assets remain frozen for many years without a final decision either way.

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