WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke at the Hudson Institute where he made the case for his bipartisan Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act.
On the destruction Russia has caused in Ukraine:
“We’ve seen Russian troops commit unspeakable crimes against the Ukrainian people, including indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas and infrastructure, mass graves, sexual violence, kidnappings, and countless other horrors. Putin is making every effort to eliminate the Ukrainian people by committing atrocities that amount to serious war crimes, including genocide. Russia must pay for the devastation it has caused.”
On why Russia must pay to rebuild Ukraine:
“The scale of the damage is immense. This devastation has decimated Ukraine’s economy, with experts placing current estimates to rebuild at over $400 billion dollars. That number will only increase more and more the longer this war drags on.”
“Meanwhile, public reporting indicates there is more than $300 billion in Russian sovereign assets currently frozen around the world, with most of that held in Europe. While like-minded countries agree that Russia should pay to rebuild Ukraine, no country has yet been willing to take a first step to make that happen. As with all key decision points on assistance to Ukraine thus far, U.S. leadership is essential.”
On why Risch introduced the REPO Act:
“If Russia refuses to honor its moral and legal obligations to compensate Ukraine to help them rebuild, other countries can – and should – seize Russia’s sovereign assets and transfer them to Ukraine.”
“The REPO Act grants the president authority to seize Russian sovereign assets frozen in the United States. It also gives the president the authority to transfer those assets to Ukraine for reconstruction.”
On how the REPO Act can encourage European allies to join the effort:
“While the REPO Act is focused on U.S. domestic law, it sends a strong message to our European partners that seizing Russia’s sovereign assets would also be legal and appropriate under international law. Under the international law of ‘countermeasures,’ third-party countries have the right to take proportionate, temporary action aimed at compelling another state to comply with its legal obligations. Therefore, it is legal and appropriate for nations to terminate Russia’s sovereign immunity and transfer Russian assets to Ukraine for reconstruction.”
On the stakes if the United States doesn’t act:
“We are entering a new phase of strategic competition that is growing more fierce with each passing day. We need to develop and use new and more creative tools to not only seek justice for those who are wronged, but to deter bad actors from doing things like Russia has done to Ukraine.”
“The countries that want to undermine and change the international system – Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – don’t care about the rule of law and our precedents. We must be willing to put them on notice that they will not be allowed to act with impunity. They will be made to pay.”
Watch Risch’s full remarks here.