No one of these stories is a silver bullet, but they’re all related and point in the same direction: China and Russia are preparing for the split with US-dominated financial architecture
By James Corbett and cross-posted from The International Forecaster
It may have arrived with little fanfare, but Russia’s SWIFT alternative has, more or less, arrived. Speaking in n.o uncertain terms at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin late last month, Elvira Nabiullina, the Governor of Russia’s central bank, stated: “We have finished working on our own payment system, and if something happens, all operations in SWIFT format will work inside the country. We have created an alternative.”
Now this news will be old news to intrepid Corbett Reporteers. My long-term audience will no doubt recall the September 21, 2014 episode of New World Next Week where James Evan Pilato and I covered the Russia/China talks to create both a SWIFT alternative and an independent ratings agency. You’ll also of course recall my March 11, 2015 editorial in these very pages where I discussed then-recent reports that China was ready to go live with its own SWIFT alternative, the Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payments System. For those not following along at home, that system did indeed go live in October of that year, but in a “watered down” form that only accounts for cross-border yuan trade deals, not capital-related transactions.
But for those who are really lost in the woods, let’s go back to my “China’s SWIFT Alternative and the (Engineered) Death of the Dollar” editorial to re-establish just what SWIFT is and why alternatives to it are so potentially important. As I wrote at the time:
“For those who don’t know, SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and is shorthand for the SWIFTNet Network that is used by over 10,500 financial institutions in 215 countries and territories to transmit financial transaction data around the world. SWIFT does not do any of the clearing or processing for these transactions itself, but instead sends the payment orders that are then settled by correspondent banks of the member institutions. Still, given the system’s near universality in the financial system, it means that virtually every international transaction between banking institutions goes through the SWIFT network.”
This is why the SWIFT system is so important to the global economy and why it was a significant hamper to the Iranian economy when 30 Iranian financial institutions (including the central bank) were de-listed from the SWIFT network in 2012. And this is exactly why China and Russia have been so keen on setting up an alternative infrastructure of their own, just in case the “completely independent” SWIFT organization acts as a proxy weapon for the US State Department and its pals at some point in the future…