Larry Summers, former U.S. secretary of the treasury and former president of Harvard University, called for the Western governments to “seize” Russian government assets held in international banking institutions to “support” Ukraine and other countries during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria aired on Sunday.
Summers framed reparations paid by the German government to the Soviet Union after World War II as a precedent for seizure of Russian government assets.
Partial transcript below.
ZAKARIA: To build Ukraine, to build those apartment houses that have been bombed out, those cities that have been devastated, those people, millions and millions who are now destitute, that’s a very, very big bill. Where is the money going to come from?
SUMMERS: I’ll tell you where a large part of it should come from. It should come from Russian state assets. Russia took German assets to pay for its reconstruction after German aggression during World War II. Resources of Iraq, after Iraq went into Kuwait, were seized to support the reconstruction of Kuwait and also to compensate other nations further away who have been victims of that conflict.
And that needs to be the ultimately source of support in Ukraine. It needs to be an ultimate source of support for countries taking refugees from Ukraine. And it needs to be an ultimate source of support for countries in global south, the developing world that have paid and suffered enormously from higher food and energy crisis because of Russian aggression. I believe that if this sets a precedent that countries that engage in naked cross-border aggression will lose their state assets, that is a precedent that I think is a very healthy precedent to set.
ZAKARIA: Now, how would this work technically? Help people understand where is this money that you’re proposing we spend?
SUMMERS: The funds are held in international — in banking institutions around the world who in turn holds claims back on the treasuries of the major countries, the United States and the Europeans principally. And so, we have the ability to seize these assets. And when we seize these assets, we can spend them as we see fit without any need for Russian approval and with strong precedent from cases like what took place in Iraq.
ZAKARIA: Larry Summers, pleasure to talk to you. Important message. Thank you.
Summers said supporting the Ukrainian economy is “the most important part of winning the economic aspect of the war of attrition.”
According to a State Department “fact sheet” published last week, the U.S. government has spent over $30 billion, ostensibly supporting Ukraine’s security in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The State Department declared, “Since January 2021, the United States has invested more than $30.4 billion in security assistance to demonstrate our enduring and steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. ”