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Choking Russia's Banks Would Be the Ultimate Sanction

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belarus on Aug. 27
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belarus on Aug. 27Photograph by Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The European Union is poised to hit Russia with a fresh round of sanctions amid mounting evidence of direct Russian military intervention in southeastern Ukraine. EU leaders said on Aug. 31 after a weekend summit meeting in Brussels that they’ll decide within a week on possible new penalties against Moscow. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are meeting with pro-Russian separatists in Minsk on Monday for preliminary peace talks.

So far, the sanctions imposed on Russia don’t seem to have caused a major disruption to its $2 trillion economy. Now some are urging the EU to wield what may be the most powerful sanctions weapon at its disposal, the same one it used against Iran in 2012: locking Russia out of the Swift interbank payments system.