- Brian Armstrong previously said that Coinbase will not block Russian accounts, and he has now doubled down on it, saying crypto stands for freedom.
- However, he admits that if the government were to impose laws that bar U.S entities from dealing with Russian nationals, his exchange would heed the directive.
Russians have been assured that they will continue to have access to their cryptocurrency accounts at Coinbase unless the U.S government issues an order against it. CEO Brian Armstrong says that crypto is unlikely to be used by Russian oligarchs to move crypto, and as such, it’s unfair to deny ordinary Russians access to crypto at a time when their local fiat currency is under intense pressure.
There have been calls to bar Russians from crypto by the major exchanges, started off by Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov. According to him, Russian residents are a big factor in the war and they embolden President Vladimir Putin. In any case, SWIFT cross-border funds transfer messaging protocol has cut off Russian banks and digital payments systems like Apple Pay have followed suit.
However, even as banking systems isolate Russia, crypto exchanges have refused to take this step.
In his latest remarks on the issue, Armstrong has doubled down on his take on the Russian crypto situation.
1/ We've been seeing some questions/discussion around whether crypto can be used to avoid sanctions. A few thoughts…
— Brian Armstrong – barmstrong.eth (@brian_armstrong) March 4, 2022
According to him, U.S laws apply to all firms operating in the country, be it crypto, real estate, gold, or even non-financial assets.
So it would be a mistake to think crypto businesses like Coinbase won’t follow the law. Of course we will. This is why we screen people who sign up for our services against global watchlists, and block transactions from IP addresses that might belong to sanctioned individuals or entities, just like any other regulated financial services business.
However, Armstrong doesn’t believe Russian billionaires, leaders, and oligarchs will turn to crypto to move funds. With most cryptos having an open ledger, “trying to sneak lots of money through crypto would be more traceable than using U.S. dollars cash, art, gold, or other assets.”
Armstrong further pointed out that this wasn’t a personal opinion and that U.S authorities have come to the same conclusion as well. This week, the National Security Council’s director of cybersecurity Carole House dismissed the possibility of Russia using crypto to evade sanctions, saying that the scale needed “would almost certainly render cryptocurrency as an ineffective primary tool for the state.”
Coinbase will keep serving Russians, although this might change in the future, with Armstrong noting
That said, if the US government decides to impose a ban, we will of course follow those laws.