Janet Yellen
United States' Secretary of Treasury, Janet Yellen addresses the media during a news conference on the second day of the second meeting of the G20 Finance and Central Bank Deputies under India’s G20 Presidency in Bengaluru on February 23, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Bengaluru: The US wants to see tougher and more effectively enforced sanctions against Russia and additional support for Ukraine, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday during meetings of the Group of 20 leading economies in the Indian technology hub of Bengaluru.

Speaking on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s attack of Ukraine, Yellen said sanctions against Moscow were working but more needed to be done to hobble the Russian war effort while supporting Ukraine.

“We are seeking to strengthen sanctions and make sure that we address violations of sanctions,” she said, noting that the Russians were seeking alternative ways to “backfill” parts and equipment to replace and repair weapons damaged in the war.

“We have deprived them of many channels they can obtain material that is critical for their defence efforts,” Yellen told reporters. “That is a particular focus we have in mind in respect to enforcement of existing sanctions and perhaps with respect to further sanctions.”

Yellen said the US expects to provide another $10 billion in assistance to Ukraine on top of more than $46 billion already given. She commended allies for their direct aid and said the role of the International Monetary Fund in those efforts is “critical.”

“We very much want to see the IMF negotiate an agreement to lend to Ukraine,” she said, noting that the fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, hopes to work out a full programme by the end of March.

Yellen said that work “could not come soon enough,” also, on extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative and other efforts to improve food security.

Given the “strong language” on the war included in the G-20’s final statement at summit meetings in Indonesia in November, Yellen said she believed a strong condemnation of the war and its impact on the world economy is achievable in Bengaluru, though the issue is still under discussion.

In Bali, G-20 leaders declared that most strongly condemned the war, warning that the conflict is intensifying fragilities in the world’s economy. They finessed divisions among them given that the group includes Russia and also countries like China and India that have significant trade ties with Moscow and have stopped short of outright criticism of the war.

Overall, the G-20 is a forum focused on economic rather than security concerns. In Bengaluru, finance ministers, central bank governors and other leaders are due to discuss a range of issues, including climate finance, regulating digital currencies, global taxation efforts and other financial priorities.

Turning to such topics, Yellen said the global economy was “in a better place” than several months ago as inflation eases and supply disruptions ease, but “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

She spoke with reporters after meeting with India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, whom she thanked for India’s help in trying to resolve debt crises, particularly for its neighbour, Sri Lanka. The Indian Ocean nation is embroiled in a humanitarian catastrophe, strapped by shortages of food, fuel and medicines, among many things.

Yellen urged China to work with other donor countries in addressing the problem.

Many countries face daunting debt “overhangs,” Yellen said, after costly efforts to cushion the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such woes have deepened as countries’ import bills surged due to sustained higher prices for food, oil and fertilizers and weakening currencies.