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Ideas

Let's Turn Frozen Russian Assets Into "Pre-Paid" War Reparations For Ukraine

The Kremlin is increasingly focused on the destruction of infrastructure in Ukraine. The government in Kyiv will be entitled to reparations. Russia should know now: the more it destroys in Ukraine, the less it will get back from its foreign billions.

a street in Kyiv damaged by a Russian shell.

Western states should declare that the secured Russian financial resources will be used for a reconstruction fund for Ukraine.

Clemens Wergin

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Russian troops have been bogged down for weeks, making no progress toward their goal of occupying key Ukrainian cities and the entire country. As a result, many military strategists are convinced that Russia's President Vladimir Putin can no longer win this war.

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This does not mean, however, that he won't continue to bomb the country to rubble, as he has been doing for weeks, without distinguishing between civilians and civilian facilities on the one hand and military targets on the other.

No one knows how long it will take Putin to come to the realization that he must end this war. The question is how to contain the Russian destructive work in that interim period until Moscow — which is on the verge of national bankruptcy — feels compelled to stop its illegal war.


Actually, the West has important leverage in the form of the hundreds of billions of frozen Russian foreign assets. France, Germany, Japan, and the United States alone currently hold about $350 billion in Russia's foreign reserves.

Therefore, Western states should publicly declare as soon as possible that the secured Russian financial resources will be used for a reconstruction fund for Ukraine. The logic behind such a move would be clear: The more Russia destroys in Ukraine, the less it will get back from its foreign billions.

Pre-paid war reparations

Normally, reparations are part of peace negotiations and they can often only be enforced if the original aggressor has lost the war. In this case, however, the international community is in the comfortable position that reparations would not have to be extorted from the aggressor by force, but are — as if prepaid — already being held by foreign central banks.

Ukraine has already filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for compensation for the war damage. Kyiv scored a partial victory when the court, in a preliminary ruling, nullified Russia's reasons for the war and called on Moscow to end it immediately.

A coalition of the willing in the West could use this legally binding ruling as a basis to transfer frozen Russian billions to an international fund for compensating Ukrainian war victims and rebuilding Ukraine.

To make it clear to Putin: The more he destroys in Ukraine, the poorer post-war Russia will be.

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Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

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In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

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