Russia has developed its own system for financial transfers that would protect it from a potential shutout of the SWIFT global transfer system in the event of harsher U.S. sanctions, its central bank governor said Wednesday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
But analysts have questioned the viability of Moscow's transfer system.
"There are risks in using the global financial networks, the global financial system, of which Russia is a part," Russian central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore during the forum. "Therefore, since back in 2014, we have been developing our own systems, including a payments system. Inside Russia we have created a system for transferring financial data, which is similar to SWIFT."
SWIFT, which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a global financial network that enables high-value cross-border transfers among its members.
Most interbank messages are transferred using SWIFT, which links more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries and territories. Based in Belgium, the cooperative has in rare instances disconnected countries' banks from its network as a tool of financial sanctions — notably on Iran in 2012, which was consequently denied access to billions of dollars in revenue.
The Donald Trump administration's increasingly muscular foreign policy, which has rolled out new financial sanctions against Iran as well as Russia, is raising questions of risk for Moscow's banks should Washington step up its financial penalties in the wake of rising tensions between the two countries.
But Russia's Nabiullina was confident in her country's risk-mitigation measures, saying that its own payments system "reduces the risks for Russian players, for Russian businesses and for Russian banks."
"This system is already operational and it allows, inside Russia, to transfer financial data," she said, calling it an "absolutely similar, competing system" that allows — at least inside Russia — "to nullify such risks."