German foreign minister: Cutting Russia off from Swift 'not sharpest sword'

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken (not pictured) following a meeting in which they discussed the Ukraine crisis in Berlin, Germany, January 20, 2022. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN, Jan 21 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed scepticism about cutting Russian banks off from the Swift global payments system in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

"Decoupling all payment transactions would perhaps be the biggest stick, but not necessarily the sharpest sword," she told the paper.

She said Western countries were looking very closely at which economic and financial sanctions would actually affect the Russian economy and leadership without a bounceback effect.

"The chancellor and I have made it quite clear that any means and measures are on the table in terms of further military escalation. And that includes Nord Stream 2," she said.

Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper cited government sources this week as saying Western governments are no longer considering cutting Russian banks off from Swift.

Excluding Russia from Swift, which would effectively cut the country off from the global economy, has long been considered the ultimate sanction that Western countries could take against Russia to deter it from further military action against its neighbour Ukraine.

Swift is a global network used by almost all financial institutions worldwide to wire sums of money to each other, and a cornerstone of the international payments system.

Reporting by Miranda Murray; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.