Inside the months of work that allowed the US and its allies to turn Russia into a financial pariah overnight

Aktual Indonesia - The speed and ferocity of financial sanctions being deployed against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine are without precedent. Over the weekend, the US and its Western allies took a series of dramatic steps that just days earlier were seen as unlikely.

A number of Russian banks will soon be expelled from the SWIFT global messaging network, in many ways the backbone of global commerce. Even more significant is the commitment to target Russia's central bank with sanctions that sever its ability to conduct transactions with Western banks.

The move would undo years of work by Russian President Vladimir Putin to sanction-proof his economy by amassing a $630 billion war chest of foreign currency reserves. If Russia's central bank is barred from selling those reserves through foreign banks, that stockpile would essentially be rendered useless.

Russia's economy, already grappling with its stock market's worst week on record, an all-time low for its currency against the dollar and soaring borrowing costs, now faces a true crisis moment.

"This is not where we wanted to be, but this is Putin's war of choice, and only Putin can decide how much more cost he is willing to bear," a senior US administration official said. "In short, Russia has become a global, economic, and financial pariah."

Russia's energy exports, its biggest source of revenue, remain largely untouched, but that too is a sign of how the US is moving in lockstep with its European allies, many of whom rely on Russia for a significant amount of their oil and natural gas supplies. It also demonstrates how the alliance is leaving options on the table to use down the road.

US and European officials working on the technical details of the sanctions were in "near constant contact" over the course of the last two days, one European official said. The official described the 48-hour period as defined by "a level of determination to make this work -- and get it right."

That official said there was no sign that determination would dissipate any time soon. The images seen worldwide, along with direct conversations between European leaders and their Ukrainian counterparts, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, had dramatically shifted the dynamic.

After years of dissension and objections over how best to deal with Russia, in the space of just a few days the US and its Western allies have demonstrated a remarkable degree of collective resolve, something that took months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy to achieve, officials say.

Last October, as alarm spread through President Joe Biden's national security team over classified intelligence that Russia was building up its military presence around Ukraine, a group of US officials began work on what would become the most sweeping package of sanctions ever deployed against a country with an economy as big as Russia's.

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Over the next several weeks, Biden's public strategy to forestall an invasion moved to the forefront. It included diplomatic efforts to dissuade Russia from military action and US troop deployments to reassure Eastern European NATO allies. While Biden made clear American troops would not be deploying to Ukraine, behind the scenes, a team of economists, diplomats, finance experts and national security officials were tasked with coming up with another way to project American might.

By mid-November, officials from the White House National Security Council, as well as from the Treasury, State and Commerce Departments were engaged in an intensive effort to rally foreign allies behind the most tangible threat of action -- a sweeping package of sanctions designed to isolate Putin and cripple his country's economy.

Over dozens of calls, meetings and planning sessions, US officials spent the next few months negotiating with their foreign counterparts to join the US in a sweeping sanctions program. The work appears to have paid off. Within hours of Putin's invasion beginning last week, more than 30 countries across four continents, comprising more than half of the world's gross domestic product, had taken part in sanctions against Russia.

Russia's largest banks are now severed from the global financial system. Key industrial sectors have been cut off from accessing critical technologies. Family members of top officials in Putin's inner circle have been hit with individual sanctions, including having their US-held assets frozen.

On Friday, individual sanctions were aimed at Putin himself. By Saturday, the alliance announced its intent to trigger a calibrated version of what is widely seen as the sanctions equivalent of the "nuclear option" -- expelling several Russian banks from the SWIFT global payment system.

The decision not to include SWIFT sanctions in the initial round of sanctions was done in part to placate European allies, many of which use the system to make payments for fuel from Russia, officials said.

But the continued escalation of sanctions in the days since the initial sweeping package rolled out gave a window into what officials viewed as the most critical component of the effort: a unified response. Not only would it create a robust sanctions regime, officials said, but it also created the space -- and trust -- to dial up the punishment if conditions warranted.

Many of the US officials involved in the effort, including Daleep Singh, Biden's deputy national security adviser for international economics, and Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary, worked in the Obama administration and had helped craft sanctions against Russia the last time Putin moved on Ukraine in 2014.

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