You Broke it, You Bought it

You Broke it, You Bought it

  • Michael Cholod
  • May 28th, 2024

Earlier this week I watched Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, testify in front of a UK Treasury Committee regarding the use of Russian assets to pay for their war in Ukraine. Browder, an American, was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005. However, since 2008 when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered by Moscow police for uncovering a $230 million fraud by the Russian government, he’s been one of the most vocal critics of Putin and his corrupt regime.

In 2005 Browder was accused of being a foreign agent and banned from Russia. After Magnitsky’s murder, he spent the next three years tirelessly campaigning to uncover additional financial crimes perpetrated by Putin and his cronies and hold them accountable. The result of Browder’s hard work was the adoption of the Magnitsky Act in the US and other nations which enabled them to legally sanction and freeze assets of corrupt government officials who steal from their countries - including Russia. 

Good deeds don’t go unpunished 

For nearly twenty years Browder has been living in hiding from Russian hit-squads and has become the preeminent expert on Russian corruption and kleptocracy. Consequently, Browder is often asked by governments across the globe to share his knowledge on how to deal with Russia and the oligarchs, so his testimony is definitely worth watching.

Browder is paying a hefty price for exposing Russian rot, but as taxpayers we’re all going to pay a terrible price if Western politicians and bankers equivocate about holding Putin and his regime responsible for the death & destruction they have wrought across Ukraine. Indeed, my current series of blogs will focus on ensuring that Russia pays for the rebuilding of Ukraine – not you and me.

Guilty as Charged

First, let’s set the record straight: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is illegal according to International Law. Russia has been a member of the United Nations since 1991 when it assumed the position of the defunct Soviet Union. Joining the United Nations means that a member nation agrees to abide by the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms including Article 2(4) which states that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Article 2(3) also applies here which states “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine clearly violates both these UN Charter provisions and that makes the invasion of Ukraine illegal, period.  

You broke, it you bought it

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken weighed in at a presentation at the University of Texas in October 2023 saying My own view is you broke it, you bought it. And so, the Russians having broken it, they ought to pay for it. And one way to do that would be through the use of these assets. We have to make sure that there is a legal basis to do that. And as I said, since most of the assets are in Europe, Europeans also have to be convinced that there’s a basis to do it.”

To paraphrase Bill Browder, the EU is not an individual entity, it’s a group of 27 separate nations each acting according to its own agenda, and this is where things can get a bit complex. The EU often cites risks and concerns regarding the repurposing Russian assets, but over the next few blogs I will explain how we can all arrive on the same page and ensure that Russia pays for their illegal and unjustified war. 

If we can’t get past our hesitance and move forward, Russia will literally get away with murder, and the taxpayers of the US, UK, EU and Canada will become victims alongside the Ukrainians, though our price will be paid only in cash and not blood. Putin has been breaking the law long enough and it’s finally time to make him pay for his horrendous crimes. 

Slava Ukraini! Heroiam Slava!