SWIFT Invades Your Privacy but Lets Putin Invade

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Citing European opposition, President Joe Biden has balked at isolating Russia from the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), used by thousands of banks around the globe, as part of the response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. SWIFT was established out of resentment toward American international financial dominance; before the inter-bank cooperative became operational in the 1970s, Telex, operated by what would become today’s Citibank, was the means used to conduct international financial transactions.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, SWIFT’s database became an invaluable asset in foiling terrorist attacks, as the U.S. Treasury Department and the CIA secretly accessed it via the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP), absent individual search warrants. The reach is so vast that even British intelligence has expressed discomfort with the “rich personal information” available to government access, much of which “is not about our targets.”

But if people are going to agree to have their financial privacy compromised—or at least give government the electronic ability and authority to compromise it in an instant—the upside must be that those powers can and will be used against the enemies of the free world. Yet here is ex-KGB officer Putin unabashedly embarking on step one of what in effect will be a restoration of the Soviet Union and not only is the United States under Biden uninterested in using arms, or giving the Ukrainians arms; we are refraining from using SWIFT as a weapon.

“The virus of nationalist ambitions is still with us, and the mine laid at the initial stage to destroy state immunity to the disease of nationalism was ticking,” Putin said in his blood-curdling speech on Feb. 21. “As I have already said, the mine was the right of secession from the Soviet Union.” On Feb. 24, as his forces were rolling into Ukraine, he referred to the United States and our NATO allies as “those who declared themselves the winners of the Cold War.” He said “the whole so-called Western bloc formed by the United States in its own image and likeness is, in its entirety” an “empire of lies.” He declared that “in territories adjacent to Russia, which I have to note is our historical land, a hostile ‘anti-Russia’ is taking shape.”

And just like his fellow man of the left in Canada, Justin Trudeau, Putin slandered those who oppose him, calling them Nazis: “the leading NATO countries are supporting the far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” Putin said of those suffering from the nationalism virus and their allies. He says the more than 100,000 Russian troops conducting the invasion are doing so to “denazify Ukraine.”

When Putin falsely claims that “since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians” and so “I made a decision to carry out a special military operation … to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine,” the similarity to Hitler is unmissable. In September, 1938, days before taking the Sudetenland, Hitler declared that “with regard to the problem of the Sudeten Germans my patience is now at an end! … now at last give to the Germans their freedom or we will go and fetch this freedom for ourselves.”

Ukraine has already suffered enough under the Russian jackboot. Ninety years ago, millions died of a Soviet-instigated man-made famine, which was covered up by infamous New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty, called by fellow correspondent Malcolm Muggeridge the greatest liar he had ever met, and whose Pulitzer Prize has, disgracefully, never been revoked. Rather odd that Putin, in an address exceeding 7,400 words and filled with historical justification for his invasion, neglected to give that genocide even a passing mention—especially considering that he himself worked for the most brutal arm of that same Soviet regime.

White House deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh asserted last week that throwing Russia out of SWIFT would have “spillover effects,” an obvious reference to the 800-pound gorilla of too-close economic ties for far too long between the European Union and Putin’s Russia. Germany, for instance, imports well more than half of its natural gas from Russia. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, admitted in a tweet “our historical failure. After Georgia, Crimea, and Donbas, we have not prepared anything that would have really deterred Putin.” In another tweet, she lamented, “We have to be militarily strong enough to make non-negotiation not an option for the other side.”

Merkel and her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who cozied up to Putin and after his premiership ended up taking a generous stipend from Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, turned to Moscow for their energy needs, most ominously after Merkel closed down Germany’s nuclear power industry.

It was symbolized well by an incident few Americans remember. In 2007, visiting Putin’s presidential residence to discuss energy and other economic matters, the dog-fearing Merkel was subjected to a surprise visit by his abnormally massive black Labrador, in full view of the press. Merkel was terrified and Putin delighted.

For years, the perennially naive, dovish EU and the foreign policy operatives surrounding Biden and President Barack Obama have regarded Putin as a cartoon figure, either part of their fantasies aimed against President Donald Trump or a far-away irritant well down on their list of concerns. As Obama put it nearly a decade ago, dismissing concerns over Putin’s Russia, “you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

The war going on today in Ukraine is red hot, and the United States can’t even exercise enough leadership or apply enough pressure on Europe to cut Moscow out of the world’s electronic banking system.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Thomas McArdle


Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for IssuesInsights.com

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