The White House on Saturday announced that the United States and its allies will remove some Russian banks from SWIFT, the international banking network that allows for the high-speed transfer of funds. The move is designed to deal a crippling blow to Russia’s economy as a penalty for the invasion of Ukraine.
In a rapid escalation of tensions between NATO member states and Russia, the Biden administration and its allies in Europe moved to cut Russia out of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).
The move is a shift away from their previous stance, which was largely opposed by Germany due to its dependence on Russian energy imports.
Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT will mean that Russian banks will not be able to communicate securely with banks beyond its borders. Iran was previously excluded from the system following developments to its nuclear program, making Russia the largest country to date to be cut off from the network.
In addition, the U.S. and European nations expressed a commitment to imposing undisclosed measures to prevent the Russian Central Bank from using its reserves to undermine sanctions.
The announcement to cut many of Russia’s banks off from the network came through a joint statement from the leaders of the United States, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
The leaders called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “an assault on fundamental international rules and norms that have prevailed since the Second World War, which we are committed to defending.”
“We stand with the Ukrainian people in this dark hour. Even beyond the measures we are announcing today, we are prepared to take further measures to hold Russia to account for its attack on Ukraine,” the statement read.
“This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the global powers wrote in a joint statement announcing the significant retaliatory measure.
Additionally, the powers announced that they will act “against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government. Specifically, we commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship—so called golden passports—that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”
Assets belonging to sanctioned individuals and companies will also be frozen within their jurisdictions.
“As a part of this effort we are committed to employing sanctions and other financial and enforcement measures on additional Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions. We will also engage other governments and work to detect and disrupt the movement of ill-gotten gains, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world.”
“Finally, we will step up our coordination against disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare,” the powers announced.