Executive Intelligence Review


VTB Bank CEO Andrei Kostin Issues Stern Warning of War

Jan. 23, 2018 (EIRNS)—The CEO of one of Russia’s leading banks, Andrei Kostin of VTB Bank, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was interviewed by the Financial Times on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum today, issuing a warning in the strongest terms that the danger of war between the United States and Russia was extremely high, and that new economic sanctions against Russia could well be seen as a “declaration of war.”

the Financial Times writes that Kostin said that his biggest concern was the “dangerous” situation being created by the buildup of arms in Europe, which risked an “accident” between NATO and Russian forces. “We are at the beginning of a new arms race,” Kostin said.

“NATO is asking for more weapons and spreading more weapons in Europe and Russia will retaliate absolutely the same. So who will benefit from this? Only the generals and those who produce arms. America is saying Europe should pay more for this. Who needs it? It is very dangerous.”

Kostin states that the U.S. Treasury is due to deliver a report to Congress early next week on oligarchs and “parastatal entities” close to Putin that is likely to be used as a basis for further sanctions against Russian interests, the paper reports.

“VTB and Sberbank, the two biggest Russian banks, are both majority-owned by the Russian government and they fear the U.S. could try to exclude them from the SWIFT international interbank payment system, which would severely restrict their cross-border operations.”

(The next significant deadline under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is Jan. 29, when the Treasury must submit reports to Congress on “oligarchs and parastatal entities of the Russian Federation” and “the effects of expanding sanctions to include sovereign debt and derivative products.”)

Kostin also said:

“Any economic sanctions against institutions, personally I say it would be like declaring a war. I see no reason why the Russian ambassador should stay in Washington any longer after that or the American ambassador staying swimming in cold water in Moscow. [Ambassador Huntsman joined Russians last week in the Epiphany plunge through the ice into water blessed by priests—ed.] I think that is a worse than cold war situation and that is very dangerous. And I think that Congress is playing with fire, because the relationship is going from bad to worse and we are not responsible for that....

“There is so much military equipment close together, anything can happen. Maybe it will not lead to a nuclear war, but it will further kill our relationship. Who knows what is going to happen in Syria, or in the Baltics or in the Black Sea where you have now American military ships. The more arms you have, the more reason to believe there could be an explosion just by accident.”

Herman Gref, Kostin’s counterpart at Sberbank, in an interview with the Financial Times in December last year also warned that any far-reaching potential U.S. move such as excluding Russian banks from SWIFT would be “irrational” and “make the cold war look like child’s play.”