One way or another, realistically or not, there is a certain expectation that Russia will have to pay for what it has destroyed in Ukraine. You break it, you pay for it. That reconstruction, however, is a long way off. It makes no sense to rebuild what could be bombed again. As long as the war rages, talk of rebuilding Ukraine seems somewhat theoretical. But arming it is an urgent matter if Kyiv is to continue to recover lost territory and defend itself. Bill Browder thinks Russia has to foot that bill too.
“Now we are in a situation where people in the West are starting to complain about sending money to Ukraine for defense and financial assistance when there are so many economic problems in other parts of the world and at home,” Browder, head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and author of the book “Freezing Order,” tells Fox News.
“The easy solution to this problem is that there are $350 billion of hard currency reserves of the Central Bank of Russia that have been frozen. And so it makes perfect logistical sense that that money would be used not only for the reconstruction of Ukraine but also for the defense of Ukraine. In my opinion, this is probably the single most important factor that will determine the outcome of the war.”
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As such, Browder sees the idea of Russia’s Central Bank’s frozen assets going up in arms for Ukraine an “elegant” solution at the cost of the conflict crisis, and he’s on another mission to make it happen. Aid to Ukraine has become a political butt in Washington as another controversial budget deadline looms amid fears of a possible government shutdown before the end of the year. Republicans want President Biden to stop writing “blank checks” and have called for greater oversight of money spent on Kiev. Some would like to see those dollars spent on America’s southern border instead. Browder says any curb on Ukraine’s military momentum now — any clipping of its wings — would be catastrophic.
“If Ukraine doesn’t win this war, then we’ll be at war with Russia next time. Putin will be on the border with Estonia and threaten a NATO country. And then we have two terrible choices to make. We can choose to join at war with Russia, which will be disastrous for us. Or worse, we can choose to abrogate our obligations under NATO and let Putin take Estonia.”
Sovereign immunity laws hamper the diversion of frozen funds from the Central Bank of Russia into arms for Ukraine. Money that belongs to governments cannot simply be expropriated. Browder argues that it is surmountable. The laws, he believes, can be changed, especially as arguments about “violation of legal precedent” ring increasingly hollow.
“Vladimir Putin is breaking all legal precedents by invading a neighboring country. Redrawing the map of Europe. And while broadening the definition of crime. We need to adjust the laws to take this into account.”
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Browder said he is suggesting to several lawmakers around the world that in specific and unique circumstances, such as “when a country invades its neighbor unprovoked, if they are involved in genocide and various other horrific crimes” sovereign immunity should not apply.
Browder has some experience using the powers of persuasion when it comes to forcing justice to serve. When Moscow failed to press charges over the death – many say murder – of its accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison, Browder compiled a list of those he held responsible for the deaths and, after a long effort of pressure, had them punished .
“I’ve been there before,” he says of that. “Thirteen years ago, I started advocating for something called the Magnitsky Act to freeze the assets of foreign officials involved in human rights abuses.” He said many bureaucrats balked along the way, arguing, “This can’t be done. But we did it. It took thirteen years. I hope this goes a lot faster.”
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Time here is of a particular essence.
“I think Ukraine will win this war. And the only thing that will stop Ukraine from winning this war is if we stop giving it financial aid to keep going. And that’s why this money is so important.”