German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to agree with sanctions against Russia that would include barring it from the SWIFT international payments system, and beyond halting certification for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, he is also against any further energy sanctions.
"In terms of unity and determination, it is very important that we decide on the measures that have now been prepared over the last few weeks, and reserve everything else for a situation where it is necessary to do other things as well," Scholz said during an EU summit.
Italy, Hungary, Austria and France are also opposed to adding SWIFT to sanctions against Russia at this time, as European countries line up to protect their own Russian oligarchs, and the money they bring in and their system of payment for Russian gas.
Russia’s goal of dividing Europe over Ukraine appears to have succeeded, with Germany and Italy overly dependent on Russian natural gas, which they pay for using the SWIFT system, and with all countries having strong banking ties to Russia.
While the Czech Republic is calling for SWIFT to be added to sanctions, Hungary–led by Putin ally Viktor Orban–is not likely to give in.
Italy has even gone as far as to plead with the EU to leave luxury goods out of the sanctions equation because Russian oligarchs are among their top consumers.
Western Europe’s muted sanctions response has Kyiv in an uproar, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warning of the Western “blood on their hands” as Russian forces enter Kyiv, the Guardian reported.
“I will not be diplomatic on this,” he tweeted. “Everyone who now doubts whether Russia should be banned from Swift has to understand that the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children will be on their hands too. BAN RUSSIA FROM SWIFT.”
Energy sanctions are still not on the table. Western European countries, particularly German, Italy and Austria, would balk at the idea. Without European unity, Biden announced yesterday that the new round of sanctions would purposefully reduce impact on the energy sector–a sacrifice Europeans are not willing to make for Ukraine, even if the fate of the entire European Union is being decided in this invasion.
“In our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue. We are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption,” Biden said in a speech on Thursday. “We’ve been coordinating with major oil-producing and -consuming countries toward our common interest to secure global energy supply.”
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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