Removal from SWIFT vital to teach Russia invasion is critical mistake

Sanctions must be imposed to teach Russian President Vladimir Putin that his invasion of Ukraine is a critical mistake.

The European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada have agreed to remove Russia’s banks, both major and otherwise, from international payments network SWIFT.

SWIFT is a private organization funded by the world’s financial institutions and headquartered in Belgium. More than 10,000 financial institutions in about 200 countries and regions use it for cross-border trade settlements and overseas remittances.

If banks are removed from the system, it will become difficult to make payments for exports and imports, which will be a major obstacle to economic activities.

It is a harsh measure that has been described as the “ultimate weapon” in sanctions. It is significant that the countries of the world have united in order to counter Russia, which is ignoring international public opinion and expanding its invasive actions.

The West are also said to be taking measures to prevent the Russian central bank from propping up the plummeting ruble. This is expected to deal a serious blow to the Russian economy.

The joint statement by the West stressed that the invasion will end up being a “strategic failure” for Putin. This may be aimed at arousing anti-war public opinion in Russia and challenging the Putin administration.

It is also very possible the sanctions will be a blow to Europe. Russia’s exports of natural gas and crude oil will stagnate, and resource prices are expected to soar.

Even so, it is necessary to isolate Russia and force it to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Even Germany and Italy, which had been cautious, are now in favor of the SWIFT sanctions. This is a matter that concerns the maintenance of international order.

Japan needs to keep pace with the West and take tough action. If Putin’s ambition to turn a neighboring country into a vassal state by force is allowed to go unchallenged, the order of the entire world, including that of the Asia-Pacific region, will be upended from its very foundation.

In fact on Sunday, North Korea again launched a ballistic missile. This provocation seems to be taking advantage of the international community dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is unacceptable.

Russian troops have surrounded the capital Kyiv and the fighting against the Ukrainian military is intensifying. Civilian facilities have also been shelled by Russian artillery, and there have been casualties among residents. There is no end to the number of people fleeing to neighboring countries such as Poland.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed his determination to fight until the end and has called on the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia and to provide military support. The international community must not stand idly by as a sovereign nation is overrun by the military forces of a major power in an attempt to overthrow its government.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 28, 2022.