EU blocks our bid to punish Russia: Anger as union refuses to kick Moscow out of global bank payment system while West imposes sanctions over Ukraine war
- Boris Johnson pressed the case to G7 leaders for suspending Russia from Swift
- President Joe Biden last night indicated the opposition had come from EU states
- Downing Street declined to comment on which countries opposed the move
But the move was kicked into the long grass because of opposition from a number of EU countries.
Ukraine yesterday urged the West to trigger the move, with foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warning that those who refused would have ‘blood on their hands’.
In a call with G7 leaders yesterday, Boris Johnson pressed the case for suspending Russia from Swift, which is used to conduct about half of its international trade
Downing Street yesterday declined to comment on which countries had opposed the move.
But Joe Biden last night indicated the opposition had come from EU states. Asked whether Russia should be cut off from Swift, the US President said: ‘It is always an option but right now that’s not a position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.’
The Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) is a mechanism for making secure payments overseas and is widely used in international trade.
Mr Johnson is said to see Russia’s suspension from Swift as an essential step in ensuring the Putin regime feels maximum economic pain for its invasion of Ukraine.
‘The PM is very keen on this – he’s pushing it very hard,’ said one source.
The PM’s official spokesman later confirmed that Mr Johnson had formally put the issue on the table at the G7 meeting, but said there had been only ‘agreement that we ought to talk more about it’.
But Joe Biden last night indicated the opposition had come from EU states. Asked whether Russia should be cut off from Swift, the US President said: ‘It is always an option but right now that’s not a position that the rest of Europe wishes to take’
Diplomatic sources said Germany and Italy were the main opponents. Officials said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that neither he nor the wider EU would support the move at this stage.
Diplomatic sources said opposition from Germany and Italy meant that a Swift ban would not be included in EU sanctions to be published today, despite some eastern European member states such as Lithuania pushing hard for it.
During a call with Mr Scholz this week, the PM warned him that ‘Western inaction or underreaction would have unthinkable consequences’.
European concerns are said to centre on potential damage to their own economies if they are unable to buy Russian gas using the system. But ex-Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the crisis was now so serious that countries had to accept sacrifices to punish Russia.
Mr Jenrick told the Daily Mail: ‘Suspending Russia from Swift is the single most effective, immediate act available to inflict serious harm on their financial system. Whilst Russia has developed alternatives, they are not the same, and there would be major dislocation.
‘The UK appears to be arguing the case with our allies, which is hugely welcome, but sadly some nations are putting their short-term financial interests first. Russia is relying on such weakness, we need to go hard now or the cost will only increase.’
US-British financier Bill Browder, who once described himself as ‘Vladimir Putin’s number one enemy’, yesterday said the suspension would knock Russia ‘back to the dark ages’.
Mr Kuleba was even more outspoken, tweeting: ‘Everyone who now doubts whether Russia should be banned from Swift has to understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children will be on their hands too.’
But some nations are said to be worried that the ban could lead to an even worse outcome, such as driving Russia into the arms of Chinese payment systems.