The US urgently needs to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. We have been hearing this for a while: President Joe Biden’s administration is facing policy pressure over Ukraine’s aid. Now, with the midterms election approaching and the Republican Party poised for wins, declaring Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism – something that Presideht Biden has been reluctant to do – is the matter of utmost urgency. Not only it can help expedite Ukraine’s victory, it may also help unite US body politic behind Ukraine. Here is why.
While the US is not the largest military donor to Ukraine on a percentage of GDP basis (the Baltic states are), it is the largest one in absolute terms. Since the start of Feb 24 invasion, American taxpayers provided $17.6 billion of military aid to Ukraine. Compare this to $13 billion in security assistance provided to Ukraine by the rest of world. Importantly and critically the US provides Ukraine some of the most advanced weapons systems, that have allowed Kyiv to turn the tide on the battlefield – and may, if the assistance accelerates, enable the creation of an air defence shield around Ukraine’s cities.
The US 2022 GDP is estimated to reach $22,790 billion, so the assistance amounts to only 0.08% of the US annual GDP. Still, with the spectre of a recession raising its head, the US military spending on the war in Ukraine is a worry to some Americans.
Yet, it does not need to be. Russia’s Central Bank has foreign exchange reserves still parked in the US, estimated by some to be as high as $100 billion. For now, these assets have been frozen, with Russia having no access to them. But the US can not access them, either. This is not right. So, rather than asking the US taxpayer to continue to pay for war, it is more prudent to liquidate Russia’s US-based assets and to start using them for Ukraine’s assistance. The longer Russia fights, the more of its own money will be channelled to Ukraine.
While radical, such move is neither unprecedented nor impossible. According to Laurence Tribe, an emeritus university professor who taught constitutional law at Harvard (link n comments), “since the reserves in question are Russian state property — unlike the assets of oligarchs — they are not shielded by the usual protections our legal system affords private property..”
The Russian government, may, of course, challenge the liquidation, most likely using the body of law known as “sovereign immunity.” And this is where declaring Russia a terrorist state will come in handy. Terrorists – either the individuals or the nations – do not get to enjoy the same protections as the law abiding individuals or sovereigns do. Russia can not behave in a rogue fashion and then expect to be treated fairly.
And making Russia pay for the US military aid to Ukraine will be a win to all – democracy, Ukraine and the USA.
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