Skip to content
The Editors

Wielding SWIFT Against Russia Is a Big Risk

There are other ways to punish Vladimir Putin that would cause much less collateral damage.

Careful what you wish for.

Careful what you wish for.

Photographer: Yann Schreiber/AFP/Getty Images

Western leaders have agreed on an ambitious move to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine: Cut some of Russia’s largest banks off from the international financial system by excluding them from SWIFT, the messaging service that facilitates the vast majority of money transfers globally.

If only the logic of their initiative matched its boldness. Although it will deal Russia a brutal blow, it will also wreak havoc elsewhere in a way that traditional sanctions do not. The allies should be mindful of setting a dangerous precedent with this historic intervention.