US Reportedly Mulls Cutting Russia Off SWIFT, Sanctioning Energy Producers & 'Putin's Inner Circle'
16:40 GMT 06.12.2021 (Updated: 18:04 GMT 06.12.2021)
Previously, the US president promised to make it "very, very difficult" for Vladimir Putin to attack Ukraine amid continuing allegations in the press and at the White House that Moscow is planning an offensive against Kiev. The Kremlin has strongly rejected these claims, vowing it poses no threat to any state.
Biden administration officials are considering a wide array of options for possible sanctions against Russia to deter it from an alleged plan to invade Ukraine, CNN has reported, citing anonymous sources. The potential options reportedly include sanctions against undefined "members of Putin's inner circle", Russian energy companies, and banks. Russia’s sovereign debt might also be targeted, the sources claimed.
According to CNN, the White House also considered a potential "nuclear option" – cutting Russia off SWIFT – a worldwide system of inter-bank communications that are used in international money wires and transactions. The US applied a similar measure against Iran under the presidency of Donald Trump, making it difficult for the country to trade with other members of the international community.
"We have put together a pretty damn aggressive package", one official told CNN.
No final decision has been made on the sanctions package that could be implemented in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, CNN said. The White House is reportedly discussing punitive measures with its European partners, who are more tightly connected to the Russian economy, to coordinate action. The European Parliament passed a motion earlier this year containing a "nuclear option" similar to the one being mulled in the White House.
At the same time, the Biden administration fears potential repercussions of slapping Moscow with hefty sanctions, specifically in the energy sector. Many European states rely on gas supplies from Russia amid spiking prices and under-filled gas reserves. Moscow also became the second biggest oil exporter to the US in 2021 and remains one of the biggest suppliers of diesel for the country. The latter helps keep the soaring fuel prices in check.
"The fear is Russia then tries to retaliate by holding back production", an unidentified senior US official told CNN.
The Kremlin has repeatedly publicly denied the possibility of using its energy resources as a geopolitical tool of pressure. However, it is unclear how either the US or EU countries even plan to buy the available Russian gas, oil, and fuel with the country's banks cut off from the SWIFT system and thus unable to receive payments.
US May Support Eastern NATO Allies if Russia 'Invades Ukraine'
A senior US official has briefed the press ahead of the upcoming video call between US President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin, noting that POTUS will raise the issue of Ukraine during the conversation and will warn his Russian counterpart of severe consequences if Moscow attacks its neighbour. Biden will not engage in a "rhetorical flourish or finger-wagging" and will instead plainly explain to Putin what the US is ready to undertake in respect to deterrence and diplomacy, the person said.
The official stressed that the US does not seek a conflict with Russia and does not see a scenario where its armed forces would be used in an allegedly possible Russia-Ukraine conflict. The administration representative stressed, however, that Washington will respond harshly and jointly with its European partners if Moscow invades Ukraine.
"President Biden will obviously raise our concerns with Russia’s military buildup and plans with respect to Ukraine. [Biden] will make clear that there will be very real costs should Russia choose to proceed, but he will also make clear that there is an effective way forward with respect to diplomacy", the official said.
The US official also stated that Washington would likely bolster its NATO allies in the east if an armed conflict erupts between Kiev and Moscow.
4 December 2021, 19:54 GMT
The Kremlin has repeatedly condemned the trend of NATO deploying increasingly more weapons close to the Russian borders, arguing that such steps undermine the country's security and global stability. Moscow has also repeatedly rejected all allegations in the Western media and governments about alleged plans for invading Ukraine – the Russian authorities have strongly stated that the country poses no threat to anyone. Claims about an allegedly possible invasion started with unsubstantiated media reports in November about a purported Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border.