The United States has constructed a financial neutron bomb. For the past 12 years an elite cell at the US Treasury has been sharpening the tools of economic warfare, designing ways to bring almost any country to its knees without firing a shot.
The strategy relies on hegemonic control over the global banking system, buttressed by a network of allies and the reluctant acquiescence of neutral states. Let us call this the Manhattan Project of the early 21st century.
"It is a new kind of war, like a creeping financial insurgency, intended to constrict our enemies' financial lifeblood, unprecedented in its reach and effectiveness," says Juan Zarate, the Treasury and White House official who helped spearhead policy after 9/11.
“The new geo-economic game may be more efficient and subtle than past geopolitical competitions, but it is no less ruthless and destructive,” he writes in his book Treasury's War: the Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare.
Bear this in mind as Washington tightens the noose on Vladimir Putin's Russia, slowly shutting off market access for Russian banks, companies and state bodies with $714bn of dollar debt (Sberbank data).
The stealth weapon is a "scarlet letter", devised under Section 311 of the US Patriot Act. Once a bank is tainted in this way - accused of money-laundering or underwriting terrorist activities, a suitably loose offence - it becomes radioactive, caught in the "boa constrictor's lethal embrace", as Mr Zarate puts it.
The markets are gradually beginning to reflect what is going on in this potentially dangerous situation created by Putin. Commodities are often the initial litmus paper during international conflicts, as you can now see from these most recent rallies for WTI crude, Brent Crude and US Natural Gas.Back to top