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LARRY KUDLOW: If the Biden admin had a backbone, they could inflict some serious financial damage on Putin

FOX Business host Larry Kudlow details how the Biden administration could cause actual damage to Russian leader Putin on Friday's "Kudlow."

If anybody thinks the new Biden sanctions on Russia are going to have some crippling financial effect, or cause some real wartime pain, think again. What Russia understands is money and oil and these new Biden sanctions, just like the old ones, will not do any serious damage to the Putin war machine. 

An investigative report by the Wall Street Journal shows how a mysterious trader from Azerbaijan assembled a secret global trading network that has allowed Russia to sell their oil to places like China, Turkey, India, South Africa, Iran, and who knows where else and not only has clandestine trading network made a mockery of Biden's so-called energy sanctions on Russia, it's also made a mockery of the so-called $60 a barrel price cap 

Russian petroleum sales surpassed $180 billion last year, according to the International Energy Agency – only slightly below pre-war revenues in 2021. Now of course, if Joe Biden had listened to Donald Trump for drill, baby, drill, and the U.S. was producing 15 million barrels per day like we should be, and oil prices were closer to $40 than $80, Putin would've never had any money to finance his Ukraine war, but he does have money, he is producing somewhere between 10 and 11 million barrels per day, and about the same as pre-war. 

Meanwhile, the Bidens have never enforced what's called "secondary" sanctions. In other words, they've never stopped third party countries like China, India, Turkey, Iran, and probably several others from doing business with Russia. Never. Furthermore, the Biden administration has never fully sanctioned Russia's big oil companies or Russia's big banks who lend to the oil companies. Never. There were carveouts all over the place and finally, the Bidens are afraid to seize the Russian central bank reserve funds that are part in the U.S. and around the world. 


The U.S. has about 5 or 6 billion of those Russian Central Bank reserves, but the European Union has about $280 billion for a grand total of some $300 billion that have been frozen offshore from Putin's central bank. Here, just like the secondary sanction failures, the Biden administration is afraid to seize these assets. They're in foreign currencies, gold, and probably bonds, too, but the Bidens won't take them. 

As a Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out, President George H. W. Bush seized Iraqi central bank assets in the early '90s. Remember? Some $50 billion in Iraqi funds were liquidated and paid out to cover the cost of Saddam Hussein's Kuwait invasion. In 2022, about $3.5 billion of assets belonging to the Afghanistan central bank were liquidated and used for relief. 

The west could use some or all those Russian central bank reserves as collateral for loans to Ukraine, or a big chunk could be liquidated and shuttled over to finance Ukraine.  

Congressman French Hill of Arkansas has been working on this for nearly two years. Both Senate and the House committees have approved the seizure and use of Russian monetary reserves. 

Some of those reserves could even be put into the U.S. Treasury and used as collateral for more Ukrainian lending, but none of this is being done by the Bidens. Their sanctions are sanctions in name only. Not working. It's like not enforcing tough sanctions on Iran. 

The Bidens are always afraid of roiling the waters, afraid of escalation. How about just, the Bidens are afraid? If they had backbone, they could inflict some serious financial damage on Vladimir Putin. Wall street would call it a Putin "put." That is, "Go short Putin, because U.S. would inflict serious monetary punishment," but that's not going to happen, and so this dreadful war is going to continue. 

This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow’s opening commentary on the February 23, 2023, edition of "Kudlow."      

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