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Biden shows he too will wield U.S. financial system as foreign policy weapon

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Katrina Manson
Financial Times, London
Saturday, April 17, 2021

By using American banks as a cudgel against Russia, Joe Biden has shown his willingness to weaponise the U.S. financial system against foes, continuing a tactic honed during the Obama years and dramatically ramped up under Donald Trump. 

... Dispatch continues below ...


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Biden's decision this week to ban U.S. financial institutions from buying new sovereign Russian debt as punishment for an alleged cyber hacking campaign and other misdemeanours offered the first significant insight into the president’s attitude to sanctions. 

It has prompted renewed concerns about their overuse.

"U.S. financial institutions are being weaponised," a banking regulatory lawyer told the Financial Times, referring to the use of sanctions as foreign policy tools. 

Experts this week argued that the U.S. government was "outsourcing U.S. foreign policy" to U.S. banks or deploying them as "forward basing" -- military terminology for establishing an enduring armed presence beyond home turf. ...

At stake, said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who was appointed Biden's National Security Council Russia director before declining for personal reasons, is the dominance of the U.S. dollar and America's unassailed lead in the global financial system, which relies on New York as international dollar clearinghouse. 

Those targeted for sanctions could seek to shield themselves by turning from U.S. banks and toward non-dollar holdings, a trend that if undertaken en masse could undermine the U.S. dollar as the primary reserve currency.

"The risk is real, and I think it's something the United States needs to be extremely aware of and discriminating in its use of sanctions when possible," she said. 

"We do see Russia and China really working together to reduce the centrality of the United States in the economic global system, and over the longer term that risks diluting the efficacy of our tools of financial coercion," she said. ...

... For the remainder of the report: 

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