Russia invades Ukraine and news of Vladimir Putin

President Joe Biden participates in a virtual meeting on February 22 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden is seriously considering whether to get Russia out of the Swift system, high security net that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, but hasn’t made a final decision yet, according to several people familiar with his thinking.

The decision to launch the procedure has always hinged on the signature of the European Union, which split for weeks in a contentious debate over the measure, ultimately choosing not to go ahead this week.

But US officials and their EU counterparts have continued to evaluate options, including sanctions, to remove banks and individual entities, rather than the entire Russian economy, from the network, officials say.

This move would be considered the nuclear option when it comes to reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Biden and his aides have highlighted the complexity of Russia’s ban on the Swift regime, noting that the United States cannot act unilaterally. “This is not the position the rest of Europe would like to take,” Biden told reporters on Thursday.

But since Biden’s press conference announcing new sanctions on Russia for its unprovoked attack, the administration appears to be getting closer to that position as other European allies have now given it their support.

The administration has discussed the matter with the Federal Reserve, which will have an interest in any decision, according to an official. US officials have held talks with the European Union about possible action.

An administration official said additional sanctions were likely if Kiev, the besieged Ukrainian capital, fell. But it wasn’t clear if that would include SWIFT, or if Russia’s removal from SWIFT might happen before.

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A White House official told CNN that “as the president and administration officials have made clear, we are focused on coordinating with allies and partners to impose more costs on Putin for his war of choice,” but declined to comment further.

On Saturday, Italy indicated it would support measures to expel Russia from Swift after Prime Minister Mario Draghi told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that “Italy fully supports the EU’s position on sanctions against Russia, including those related to the Swift regime, and will continue to do so.” . to do that.”

Draghi’s comments are particularly noteworthy given the Italian economy’s vulnerability to energy, but the main opposition to such action came from Germany, officials say.

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