Can anyone here tell me how this "using Russian assets to fund Ukrainian reconstruction" isn't just straight up theft?

The argument presented here is that all those Russian assets would be a very nice thing to have, no doubt true, but there isn't even a hint of a suggestion that there is any sort of legal mechanism for transferring those Russian assets to another party, no matter how righteous the new owners are.

I have read Timothy Ash's other arguments about the purported legality of all this and it's basically the same conversation that Lando Calrissian had with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back;

"That wasn't the deal Vader!"

"I am altering the deal. Pray that I don't alter it any further."

The practical upshot of that was of course, Lando defects from the Empire and goes over to the Rebel Alliance. People don't like doing business with thieves, not even powerful thieving Empires, and now there are plenty of ways for them to take their business elsewhere.

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There are a variety of legal analyses out there, such as this one: https://rdi.org/articles/making-putin-pay/

Michael McFaul has written some good articles too.

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Nov 5, 2023·edited Nov 5, 2023

Where there is a way there is usually a way

Imagine a verdict by the ICC..

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I'm not saying it can't be done, it almost certainly can be done, but it would still be theft and would be widely recognized as such regardless of whatever retro-active legislation is put in to legitimize it. If investors see that their assets can be unilaterally seized and redistributed for political purposes, then that risk will be factored into the market. And you can't legislate market confidence.

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This talk about investor confidence, this is a one in a century incidence and precedent and the chances of a similar alignment of the stars is close to zilch. The "market" will be realistic and not give a toss. This is just fear-mongering

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Whether this is a once in a century freak one off event or just the latest and largest step on a well-trodden road depends on the data you think is relevant to consider. Western nations especially The United States have a long history of using various forms of economic and financial sanctions as tools of statecraft. The frozen Iranian funds are pretty well known, but there are also Syrian and Libyan, and I presume many others.

The seizure of assets of various Russian oligarchs must have caused other high-net worth individuals to seriously reconsider their position. Chinese billionaires obviously but there are many others who might reasonably worry that they could fall under a sanction regime.

I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that if a mechanism is invented to access Russian funds, then other funds will also be frozen and then accessed.

With increasing geo-political tensions and mounting financial pressures in western governments, the winds are blowing in that direction.

Don't forget the fungibility of money and how attractive a free new heap of it is. It has been stated that these seized funds will only be going to fund Ukrainian reconstruction. I'm sure that will be the case. And I'm sure that the disbursement of these newly acquired funds will be perfectly legal under the newly written laws. I'm also sure that the management fees, legal fees, consultancy fees, accounting fees and transfer fees will be purely nominal.

But the ~300b formerly Russian dollars going into Ukraine frees up other funds for other projects. It rather reminds me of statements made by many jurisdictions who legalized various forms of gambling. "All the profits will go into education!" was loudly proclaimed. It was perfectly true. Those funds were put into education. The previous funds allocated for education were cut and the schools budget remained the same.

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