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Obama-Era Sanctions Specialist Proposes How To ‘Get Russia Up to 70% on the Pain Meter’

April 29 , 2021 (EIRNS)—Brian O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former Obama-era adviser to the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), was quoted extensively in an April 22 Moscow Times article on the financial threats being leveled against Russia by the Biden administration. O’Toole presented a strategy for how to raise what he calls the “pain meter” for Russia up to 70%, from a mere 10% where it now stands.

O’Toole, who worked for BBT bank and for the CIA (prior to joining Treasury), does not think that disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT bank clearance messaging service is the first thing to take up. “If Russia was disconnected from SWIFT today, there would be a big impact, let’s not minimize that. But taking them off doesn’t cut them off from U.S. banks, because Russian institutions can use Telex or another form of financial messaging.” In fact, “disconnecting from SWIFT is the last thing you do—or the last thing you try to do—from a sanctions perspective. In the case of Iran, disconnection took them from 92% to 97% on the pain meter.”

Moscow Times elaborated on O’Toole’s suggestions:

“On the same scale, he would put Russia at around 10%—leaving lots of ground to cover, such as a full ban on owning Russian government debt, more restrictions on state-owned companies, and then ‘working up to actually blocking transactions with a Russian bank or two’ before Western governments would move to block SWIFT. ‘That’s what gets you to 60 or 70% on the pain meter. Blocking Sberbank, for instance, would be a much bigger deal than SWIFT. That would be real financial warfare.’ ”

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