The United States and its allies announced Saturday a deal to target Russia via SWIFT. This service facilitates global transactions between thousands of financial institutions.
"We promise to ensure that select Russian banks are removed form the SWIFT messaging network. In a joint statement, the leaders of the European Commission and France, Germany and Italy said that this will prevent these banks from being connected to the international financial system.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced new U.S. sanctions on Russia. also noted differences between European countries regarding the sanction of Russia via SWIFT. Biden stated that this is always an option. "But at the moment, that's not a position that the rest Europe wants to take."
According to a European diplomat, the reason the administration has been reluctant to publicly push for Russia's access SWIFT was mainly because it worried that this would bring attention to divisions within the allies. According to the person, the Biden administration tried to convince the public that America and Europe are in complete lock-step. They also didn't want to be ahead of the Europeans on SWIFT.
It was a surprise that Italy and Germany did not include SWIFT in the sanctions against Russia. The European economy is more closely linked to Russia than the U.S. and could be affected if Russia is restricted from SWIFT or banned from using it, as well as if access to banks is blocked.
As Russia's aggression escalates, the European mood has changed.
The German government made public statements on Saturday that it may be open to limiting or limiting Russia's access SWIFT in a targeted manner, but not a complete removal.
"As Russian forces unleashed their assault on Kyiv, and other Ukrainian cities," the leaders stated in a joint statement that announced the SWIFT move Saturday night.
In addition to the economic sanctions that each nation would collectively impose on one another, the statement included restrictions to stop the Russian Central Bank deploying its international reserves to offset the effects of the sanctions.
The leaders also stated that they would take action against "people and entities" who aid the war in Ukraine, as well as the Russian government's harmful activities.
The statement stated that "Specifically, we will take measures to limit the sale citizenship--so-called golden passports--that allow wealthy Russians to become citizens of our countries and have access to our financial system,"
The U.S. and European Union offer citizenship programs that allow foreigners to obtain citizenship if they make a minimum amount of investments in their country. While governments claim that passports help the local economy through investment, the programs are often criticized for allowing wealthy individuals to purchase citizenship.
These investor visa programs in the U.S. include the EB-5, and E-2 programmes.
Several EU nations such as Malta, Bulgaria were previously accused of giving "golden passes" to oligarchs. There have been attempts in the EU to ban this practice.