Panel I: The Economic War: What Has Been Done, What Can Be Done, and What Should Be Done?

To open the symposium, Eric Kadel, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, moderated a discussion of the punitive economic measures the U.S. government is using against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Richard Goldberg, a Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, opened the panel by discussing the “patchwork” of U.S. sanctions on the Russian Federation. In his view, the Biden Administration has sought to impose economic pressure on the Russian government while avoiding sanctions in areas that would impact U.S. consumers (such as oil markets). In Goldberg’s view, sanctions have significantly impacted the Russian economy. However, the Russian government still has access to oil revenues due to a lack of sanctions on the Russian energy sector. Goldberg recommended tightening U.S. sanctions against Russian energy suppliers and financiers. But with election season upon us, Goldberg predicted the White House would not have a significant appetite to escalate economic pressure against Russia in ways that might have domestic economic ramifications.  

Next, Scott Anderson, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, gave his perspective on the U.S. “financial shock and awe” campaign against Russia. He discussed the U.S. government’s use of export controls and asset seizure against the Russian government. In his view, the U.S. government has used export controls to degrade strategic sectors of the Russian economy. Anderson pointed out that the Biden Administration has repurposed the Foreign Direct Product Rule against Russia—an export control authority initially developed by the Trump Administration for use against China. Anderson expects to see the U.S. Commerce Department’s budget grow in the coming years to keep pace with the demands of implementing and enforcing these new export control measures.

Anderson also gave the audience an overview of the U.S. government’s asset seizure campaign against the Russian Federation. The United States has seized $350 billion in assets from the Russian government, oligarchs, banks, and other state-owned corporations. Anderson raised the possibility of providing these seized funds to Ukraine as reparations, but he cautioned that international legal hurdles must be overcome first. Anderson concluded by stating that he expects U.S. economic pressure against Russia to continue for the foreseeable future.

Keynote Address

Over lunch, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison offered her views on the global security landscape.

She began with an assessment of European security affairs, emphasizing the importance of American leadership in NATO. The Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 forced NATO to rethink its approach to security on the alliance’s eastern flank, leading to an enhanced forward military presence in the Baltic states. Ambassador Hutchison expressed support for the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. She argued that the United States must remain committed to helping Ukraine maintain its independence, unlike the U.S. response to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. She also recommended providing the Ukrainians with additional air assets and long-range missiles to help them win the conflict.

Ambassador Hutchison placed the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the broader context of the U.S. great power competition with China. She argued that unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine would signal to China that the U.S. will stand by Taiwan. In her view, NATO can play a constructive role in pushing back against Chinese aggression. Ambassador Hutchison recounted how our European allies began to recognize the threat posed by Beijing when the Belt and Road Initiative reached critical European infrastructure, such as maritime ports and telecommunications networks. Ambassador Hutchison argued that the United States and its democratic allies must stand together to face the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Panel II: Adjudicating Atrocities from the Russia-Ukraine War: Can It Be Done, In What Tribunals, and Should There Be Limits?

The conference’s final panel discussed prosecuting Russian officials for atrocities committed in Ukraine. Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice, opened the discussion by describing several “pathways to justice” the U.S. government is using to respond to Russian atrocities. The U.S. government is supporting the Ukrainian government, third countries, and international institutions in investigating Russian war crimes. The Ambassador highlighted that the international community is considering establishing a tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders for the crime of aggression. She also outlined steps the U.S. government is taking to enhance our own war crime laws.

Professor Jeremy Rabkin, Professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, continued the conversation by expressing support for Ukrainian prosecutions of Russian war criminals, but he cautioned against using international tribunals to pursue these war crimes claims. He highlighted the risk that international criminal tribunals pose to American military servicemembers operating around the globe. Next, Professor Michael Newton, Director of the International Legal Studies Program at Vanderbilt University Law School, expressed support for the U.S. government providing technical assistance to the Ukrainian judiciary as it pursues these war crimes investigations.

Matthew Heiman, Chairman of the Federalist Society’s International and National Security Practice Group, led the panel in a robust debate about the merits of cooperating with International Criminal Court activities. 


Watch the full conference here.

Note from the Editor: The Federalist Society takes no positions on particular legal and public policy matters. Any expressions of opinion are those of the author. We welcome responses to the views presented here. To join the debate, please email us at [email protected].