Possible U.S. Responses
If diplomatic efforts continue to fail, the U.S. is mulling sanctions with financial implications, as detailed in the "Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022” bill (S. 3488 ) introduced in the Senate last week. This legislation proposes a range of potential sanctions if Russia escalates militarily against Ukraine.
Key Sanctions to Watch
- Sanctions against senior government officials and Russian banks.
- Investigations of President Vladimir Putin’s wealth.
- Ban on U.S. investment in all newly issued Russian sovereign debt.
- Sectoral sanctions on Russian extractive industries.
Recent reports also suggest the U.S. administration may block Russian businesses from accessing certain semiconductors built with U.S. tools and software.
The Most Severe Sanction: Disconnecting Russian Banks From SWIFT
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is a secure communication platform that connects thousands of financial institutions. Banks, brokerages and other financial institutions use SWIFT to send and receive information, such as instructions to transfer money to an overseas account or settle a securities trade.
Disconnecting Russian banks from SWIFT would likely be imposed only in the most extreme scenarios.1
Removing Russia from SWIFT, which has been characterized as the “nuclear option,” would likely cause significant economic disruption to Russia.
In addition, European countries that rely on Russian exports of oil, natural gas and metals would feel the pain of higher energy prices because of the supply disruption. This disruption—and the uncertainty it would likely bring—may also boost volatility in the broader energy sector.
Potential Scenarios and Market Impacts
- Diplomatic solution. Russia does not invade Ukraine. Russia and the U.S. reach a new security accord and a renewed pathway for talks over the status of Eastern Ukraine. Russian troops demobilize. Market impact: This scenario would support Russian assets and the ruble.
- Tension remains elevated. Talks yield no firm agreement. Both sides continue to stress their preference for a diplomatic solution, yet the threats of military escalation and other aggression persist (e.g., cyberattacks). Market impact: The risk premium on Russian assets stays elevated.
- Conflict escalation. Russia invades. Direct Russian involvement in Ukraine would likely trigger severe punitive sanctions. It’s possible Russia would retaliate by rationing or suspending energy exports. Market impact: A lengthy suspension of oil and gas exports would increase global energy prices, particularly in Europe. It could also damage Russian exports, further undermine Russian efforts to establish long-term gas contracts with Europe, likely weaken the ruble, and push global valuations and stock prices lower.
Investment Response: Hold Steady and Watch Closely
In our view, the likelihood of NATO or U.S. troops confronting Russian soldiers remains low. While we are not currently making changes to our positions, we are monitoring the situation as the U.S. and NATO work through diplomatic channels to address fundamental differences, including NATO’s potential expansion in Europe. The situation remains fluid. We will keep you informed of our thoughts as we continue to assess the situation and its potential impact on our portfolios.