SWIFT is used by over 11,000 banks and other financial organisations across some 200 countries, and is seen as a vital component of current world order of globalised borderless banking.
The US threat to disconnect Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system has hung over Moscow’s head for years, with Russia responding by creating a domestic alternative known as SPFS, a Russian acronym for “System for Transfer of Financial Messages.”
Moscow is prepared for and will respond to any eventuality in which Russia is shut off from SWIFT, but doesn’t feel that any country will risk doing so, Andrei Krutskikh, special representative to the Russian president on international cooperation in the field of information security, announced on Wednesday.
“Let them try it…As far as the technological and military-political insurance against disconnection, one would have to ask the specific specialists in these areas. But ‘our armoured train stands on the side track’ so to speak, and we have full confidence in our strength and the power of our response,” Krutskikh said, referencing a famous Soviet song from the pre-WWII period.
The official went on to suggest that the recent strengthening of Russia’s defensive capabilities has helped prevent others from “taking risks” vis-a-vis Moscow.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Sputnik that Russia has the basis for an alternative to SWIFT, and that the government and Central Bank “should do everything to make this basis reliable, to guarantee complete independence and to safeguard against damage that someone may try to inflict upon us.”
Earlier this year, Lavrov encouraged Russia and its foreign partners to continue to move away from the use of the dollar in trade, and to create alternatives to payment systems controlled by the West.
Fears that the United States and its allies might cut Russia off from the Belgium-headquartered SWIFT system have been around since 2014 and the collapse of ties between Moscow and the West over the political crisis and civil war in Ukraine, which followed the US and EU-backed coup in Kiev. Rumours of preparations for a cut-off reemerged in recent weeks amid the continued worsening of relations between the Kremlin and Biden administration, with Washington slapping Moscow with sweeping new sanctions and threatening follow-up actions in response to possible Russian “behaviour” in a broad range of areas.
SWIFT is used by over 11,000 banks and other financial organisations across some 200 countries, and is seen as a vital component of current world order of globalised borderless banking. Russia has long been one of its top five users, with the system a popular tool used by Russian businessmen stashing wealth abroad.
In 2014, Moscow started developing and alternative to SWIFT known as SPFS. By 2019, several hundred institutions had connected to the system, with the Russian Central Bank announcing that eight foreign banks had joined or were in the process of joining by that time.
Last year, finance and capital markets experts told Sputnik that although disconnecting Russia from SWIFT might create some temporary problems for Moscow, including currency fluctuations and issues with international settlements, it would also hit a US economy struggling to dig out of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.