The crash of the banks in question: shut off Russia from SWIFT

The US is only about a month to decide on new sanctions against Russia (deadline January 29). The presidential administration has long delayed trump this moment: the White house did not hide that do not agree with the bill signed on additional restrictive measures. One suggestion: disable our country from the interbank system SWIFT. “MK” checked, what do you think about this American economists.


In America there is still no consensus about exactly how to “punish” Russia for “interference in presidential election” – the source of uncertainty must be sought in the position of trump and his supporters.

Epic last round of sanctions between the USA and Russia began August 2, when Congress put on the President’s Desk a bill on new sanctions against Moscow. The bill secured the old restrictive measures and opened the way for the introduction of new. Trump called the document must be revised, but still signed. It was pointed out that the sanctions will affect people and companies that undermine cyber security of the United States, investing in Russian power projects and defence sector, providing assistance to the Syrian government, violate human rights or are involved in corruption.

In the document, however, was not specified, what specifically the company will be subject to restrictive measures. To determine this, Congress gave the state Department until October 1. But the state Department delayed the job for almost a month. According to the official version, from-for personnel problems. According to opponents of the President, the state Department deliberately waited until the last minute in order not to complicate the already cold relations with Moscow.

Nevertheless, 26 Oct blacklist of Russian companies was made public. There were mostly representatives of the defence sector. The catch was that under the sanctions — to the great some of the European Union is theoretically fell and European firms. For example, those that participated in the construction of the pipeline “Nord stream-2”.

The state Department again asked for a delay: if sanctions were imposed immediately, they would have affected even some American companies. According to the statements of the us state Department, anyone who invests in the sanctioned Russian economy, it was necessary to give time to stop doing it.

But the Congress is still unhappy. All because of a protracted war between the legislative and Executive power in the United States, which lasts from the moment of election trump. On Capitol hill believe that while the presidential administration pulls with the introduction of sanctions, Russia will find a way to circumvent the restrictions, for example, to give the defense business at the mercy of their subsidiaries.

The next deadline was appointed on 29 January 2018. By this time, sanctions should be imposed permanently, and not just on Russian companies but on all who continue to engage in business with them. But it will be for limit? About this in the US is still a debate, which gives grounds for different interpretations.

One of them is the possible disconnection of Russia from SWIFT interbank system, which helps banks to cooperate with foreign partners. For the first time such proposals were made in 2014 after the events in Crimea and Ukraine. The European Parliament even adopted a resolution that such alternative should be at least considered.

In favor of such strict sanctions said that they would be very effective from the point of view of the Americans. According to foreign economists, once it is disconnected from SWIFT pushed Iran into a “nuclear deal”. “Disabling of Russian banks and companies from SWIFT definitely cut off Russian business from rest of the world, — said the British analyst Bruce Johnstone, quoted by Business Insider. — It will also have a great impact on European companies who need Russian money and energy.

If Putin to take his credit card, it will have far-reaching consequences for the Russian economy, as it has realized Iran, when its financial institutions were disconnected from the system in 2012.”

There is also the scenario in which SWIFT will stop working with some Russian banks, for example, with state participation. It is on such a prospect hinted the head of Sberbank German Gref when he said that in this case the “cold war” seem the Americans, “child’s play”. However, understand this, it seems, in America.

First, SWIFT is formally independent structure, which is not profitable to follow the fluctuations of international relations. In addition, this society is based in Belgium and is not subject directly to us law. As claimed by the society that sanctions it could impose only if it is asked to make the European Union: as a Belgian cooperative, it is obliged to obey the European laws. Accordingly, in order to disconnect from the Russian system, America will first have to convince of the correctness of Brussels.

“In March 2012, the following international and multilateral decision to strengthen sanctions against Iran, the SWIFT made an exception, obeyed formally adopted by the EU and ceased to transmit messages to the sanctioned Iranian banks” — so the system explains his position on the official website. As for Russia, none of the 25 members of the Board of Directors who are elected from among the bankers of the world, has not yet spoken about possible sanctions against our country.

The reason for The shutdown of Iran from the international banking system was much more serious: he actively sought to join the club of nuclear powers. According to rules, SWIFT may refuse to work only with selected banks that are involved in illegal activity, and to cut off a whole country, again, the system can only in a pinch.

As pointed out by the Economist magazine, the SWIFT, growing competition, alternative structures develop BRICS, China and Russia. If the SWIFT will go to the United States and will impose sanctions on Moscow, this will reduce the level of system reliability and credibility. Not all countries ruled by democratic regimes. And authoritarian leaders in the future may prefer to switch to a less “picky” banking instruments.

In 2014, officials from the U.S. Treasury Department declared the magazine the Economist: disable Russia from SWIFT only in the most extreme case. Cash traffic in such a scenario of development of events is not going anywhere, he’ll just go into a less secure system that’s harder to track and control. And this will play into the hands of criminals and cyberterrorists.

“In the end, many Europeans from the beginning was skeptical in relation to anti-sanctions, — said the expert on geopolitics Ian Bremmer — Their goal was to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine. And this goal has failed.”

However, the idea of disconnecting Russia from SWIFT at the time, had powerful supporters. Among them is an influential Democrat Senator from Illinois dick Durbin and well-known hawk-Republican John McCain.

“It’s time to impose additional sanctions on Putin, including the possible termination of Russia from the system SWIFT”, — was said in their joint letter to the state Department in 2015. Recently, however, encouraging to strengthen sanctions pressure on Russia, the senators do not specifically mention such a tough measure.

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