The European Union will analyse shortly the consequences of cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international payments system before deciding whether to use that “financial nuclear weapon”, France’s finance minister said on Friday.
In the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, EU nations have already decided on a package of sanctions that would cover 70% of the Russian banking market.
However, some countries are reluctant to go further by cutting Russia’s access to the SWIFT interbank money transfer network over concerns about how payments for Russian energy imports would be made and whether EU creditors would get paid.
Therefore EU finance ministers meeting in Paris asked the European Central Bank and European Commission to produce an analysis “in the coming hours” on the consequences of such action, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
“Swift is the financial nuclear weapon. SWIFT is what would allow Russian financial institutions to be cut off from other financial institutions worldwide,” Le Maire told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting in Paris.
“When you have a nuclear weapon in your hands, you think before using it, some member states have reservations, France is not one of them,” he added.
A German government spokesperson said earlier on Friday that kicking Russia out of SWIFT would be technically difficult to arrange and would have a massive impact on transactions for Germany and German businesses in Russia.
Later at the meeting in Paris, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said: “We are open, but you have to know what you’re doing.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday to use all of Washington’s influence to sway hesitant European countries, he said on Friday on Twitter.
“All options are on the table given the potentially far reaching implications of cutting off Russia from SWIFT,” European Commision Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said at the finance ministers meeting.
“This option has to be presented to members states also with an assessment of the exact implications so that they can take an informed decision,” he added.