Scoop: $5 billion in Russian assets found in U.S. by global task force
The Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force has identified some $5 billion in Russian central bank assets in the U.S. banking system, a small fraction of the estimated $280 billion in global assets, according to REPO officials.
Why it matters: The $5 billion of immobilized assets is insufficient to cover the Biden administration's latest $24 billion supplemental Ukraine funding request, depriving Congress of the easy argument that Ukraine aid can be paid for by dipping into frozen Russian assets.
- House and Senate Republicans are deeply divided about the latest round of funding for Ukraine, which includes $20.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid and $3.3 in economic assistance.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to pass President Biden's $40 billion in emergency funding this month, which also includes disaster relief assistance and funding for border security, in one package.
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is signaling that he wants to strike the Ukraine funding and just pass disaster relief, Punchbowl News reported.
Driving the news: The U.S. and its G7 allies set up the REPO task force in 2022 to identify and potentially seize assets outside the country.
- The group, which includes representatives from G7 finance and justice ministries, met virtually on Wednesday to share their latest estimates on where Russian sovereign assets are parked abroad.
- More than 80% of the $280 billion in Russian sovereign assets are held in Europe.
- Less than 2% — $5.06 billion — is held in the U.S.
Flashback: In March, the REPO task force announced that they had blocked or frozen more than $58 billion of assets controlled or owned by sanctioned Russians.
Between the lines: There's a difference between identifying Russian central bank assets and actually seizing them.
- While leaders committed at the G7 in May to "continue our efforts to ensure that Russia pays for the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine," countries are still exploring how they can legally seize either underlying assets or the interest payments on them.
- U.S. lawmakers have proposed new legislation to give President Biden the authority to take control of Russia's sovereign assets and then transfer them to Ukraine.
By the numbers: Keeping Ukraine's economy afloat during the conflict has required enormous international assistance, including the first International Monetary Fund lending program for a country at war.
- The World Bank estimated in September of 2022 that Ukraine will require $349 billion to rebuild its economy and social services when the war is over.
- The European Union has pledged $55 billion in economic assistance through 2027.
- The U.S. has already committed a total of $60 billion towards Ukraine, including more than $43 billion in military aid.