EU threatens to halt Nord Stream 2 & cut Russia off from SWIFT
The EU is discussing the possibility of excluding Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system and completely putting a halt on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Moscow launches an invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has revealed.
Speaking to CNN on Thursday, the Eurocrat said the EU would not rule out any possible angles for sanctions, adding that nothing is “off the table.”
The EU and the US are currently working on a package of measures designed to deter Russia from considering a military incursion into Ukraine. Moscow stands accused of placing 100,000 troops on the border, with some alleging it is planning an attack. This claim has repeatedly been denied by the Kremlin.
Von der Leyen’s latest statement comes despite some reports that many foreign leaders have given up on some of the harshest sanctions, including on the financial and energy sectors, due to fears that the European economy and the continent's energy security could see significant blowback.
These include the suggestion that the EU could place a total ban on the usage of Nord Stream 2, a controversial gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany.
“I want to be very clear: Nothing is off the table, everything is on the table,” von der Leyen said when asked directly if the EU would make sure the energy system is stopped from ever being used. She repeated the same line when also asked about SWIFT.
“The Commission is responsible for designing, shaping, and developing the sanctions – in the financial field, in the economic field, in the technology field. This includes everything,” she explained.
According to von der Leyen, any EU sanctions against Russia would have a devastating effect. Brussels is Moscow’s largest trading partner, and 75% of direct foreign investment in Russia comes from the EU, she explained, suggesting that economic measures would be painful.
Earlier in January, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the EU and the US had refused to consider disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system. It noted that it could destabilize financial markets and help create an alternative payment infrastructure that would no longer be dominated by Western nations.
American outlet Bloomberg later reported that Germany had demanded that proposed sanctions against Russia would not include restrictions on energy, insisting that the sector be exempted if measures are taken to block banks’ access to US dollars.