Newsletter: Should Ukraine Get Russia's Frozen Assets?

Should Russia Get Russia's Frozen Assets Debate


Lawrence Summers
Former Secretary of the Treasury


Benn Steil
Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics at the
Council on Foreign Relations


Gillian Tett
Editorial Board Chair and Editor-at-Large US of the Financial Times; Provost at King’s College Cambridge


Here is what we have in store this week:

We debate what should be done with Russia’s frozen assets and whether it would be enough to rebuild Ukraine

A closer look at Americans’ confidence in Putin, Zelensky, and other European leaders

A debate for Banned Books Week

 Your Sunday reading list



Over $300 billion dollars. That’s the number of assets from the Central Russian Bank that were frozen by the U.S. and other Western governments when the invasion of Ukraine began. With the country’s destruction, policymakers are turning their thoughts to how their countries especially Russia can help Ukraine rebuild and receive compensation. The problem? The assets weren’t seized just frozen.

What’s the difference?  A frozen asset can’t be used, moved, or sold, while its legal ownership doesn’t change. Seizing an asset transfers its ownership to the seizing authority, which can use or sell the asset.

Why haven’t the assets been seized? There are fears that seizing and redistributing them to Ukraine is legally dubious under domestic and international law. There are also worries that doing so will set a precedent that will lead to retaliation, escalated tensions, and a loss of power for the dollar in trade.

What are the stakes? The price tag for helping Ukraine recover is $411 billion dollars but there are legal and ethical implications that may unfold, affecting trade, the economy, and more.

This week, our debaters discuss: Should Ukraine Get Russia’s Frozen Assets? Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers, returns to our program to argue “yes” to the question. Arguing “no” is Benn Steil, the senior fellow and Director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. Gillian Tett, the Editorial Board Chair and Editor-at-Large US of the Financial Times, returns as our guest moderator.

Listen to this episode now as a podcast or watch it on YouTube — and as always, tell us what you think.



Where Americans Agree: They Don’t Trust Putin In World Affairs














Should Ukraine Get Russia’s Frozen Assets?



“International law provides clearly for the principle of compensation. This is a case where compensation is clearly necessary, and clearly appropriate, and where the need for that compensation has been recognized very broadly internationally…There are many precedents during and after wars when the assets of aggressing states have been put to use to compensate the victims of their aggression. Put frankly, there is no other viable way.”

Lawrence Summers



“The consequences of outright seizure… would be extremely severe. Other states might seize US assets in the future on the grounds that the US had made such unilateral determinations in the past. We could see the movement of foreign reserve assets out of the US dollar and out of US jurisdiction. We could see the de-dollarization of trade. ”

Benn Steil


This week  Banned Books Week the country is debating censorship in America’s libraries and on students’ bookshelves. We recently produced a debate around this topic and asked the vital question, “Should Certain Books Ever Be Banned in School?” Hear Chris Rufo and Yascha Mounk take on this topic in a powerful, impactful conversation. Stream the debate here.




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