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Shut down, but not out: How can RT triumph over NatWest?

RT UK must rethink its strategy in order to remain in its London office.

“There is an imperialism that deserves all [honour] and respect — an imperialism of service in the discharge of great duties. But with too many it is the sense of domination and aggrandisement, the glorification of power. The price of peace is eternal vigilance”.

— Leonard H. Courtney, President of the British Statistical Society

The ongoing bickering between Russia’s RT news channel and Royal Bank of Scotland subsidy NatWest has polarised into polemics over freedom of speech on one end, and baseless drivel on the other.

Without explaining itself for weeks, then finally citing ’poor ratings’, NatWest officially severed ties with RT, leaving the channel’s employees and supporters reeling in confusion and anger.The Duran’s Alex Christoforou exclaimed.

“We only wish the UK government and its crony bank would grow a pair, and just admit that they are trying to shut down RT’s operations in the UK because the United States and VP Joe Biden gave then the order to do so”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed condemnation:

“Actions of this sort […] by the UK media regulator, OFCOM, are part of attempts to oust from the British media space an internationally popular broadcaster that offers an alternative point of view on global affairs”.

It is certainly questionable that 4 billion viewers—over 65 times the UK population before triggering Article 50—qualifies as ‘poor ratings’ by OFCOM standards. Notwithstanding concerns of a post-Brexit economy, NatWest chose falling on its sword over keeping the British economy afloat.

This was evidenced by a wave of solidarity voiced by British citizens, businessmen, trade unions and fans of RT, prompting ridicule and even threats to close NatWest accounts.  One commentator tweeted.

“Dear #NatWest you should stick 2 #banking & not try 2 dictate our politics. I’ve just closed my account in view of you blocking.”

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB-ML) even initiated protests in front of NatWest and RBS branches across Birmingham and London, and released a full statement in response.

“The BBC and the corporate media are constantly attempting to prepare British people for a military confrontation with Russia, which would be catastrophic for British workers,” the organisation mentioned.

We must not allow such blatant bias and propaganda to go unchallenged, [and] fight the interference of NatWest in the affairs of Russia Today which operates legally and fairly in Britain.”

A London CPGB-ML cadre highlighted during a RUPTLY interview:

“RT is a fantastic source of news that gives a different side of the story from most other media outlets. If you say that you have freedom of speech, democracy, and freedom of the press, it’s important to have a variety of sources […] We saw the same thing happen last year when we saw the Cooperative bank shut down the Palestine Solidarity Campaign accounts.”

Nevertheless, voicing indignation can spread awareness, but does not guarantee success, and not even RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan’s “Long live freedom of speech” rant can stop British enterprises from having the freedom to make poor decisions.

Speaking of which, RBS is no stranger to self-sabotage. Whether the English High Court indicts RBS CEO Ross McEwan for “ample support for an inference of fraud and dishonesty at the highest level”, or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) fines RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank 56 million GBP for its massive 2012 IT snafu, which disappeared remittances for over 6.5 million customers overnight, it will continue this dishonourable tradition with RT.

RBS was even dubbed “the Vampire Bank” after a whistleblower caught the bank bloodletting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to save its own neck during the 2008 financial crisis.  Channel 4 reported

“Lawrence Tomlinson […] told MPs that RBS was a ‘vampire’ bank which has systematically destroyed small businesses by its ruthless treatment of entrepreneurs.”

So, why the indignation? RT could more easily safeguard its finances in a soiled mattress in Brixton than trust the RBS and its subsidiaries.

Despite these shortcomings, “freedom of speech” arguments hold very little weight when the UK government considers Russia a hostile wartime bedfellow.

RT’s immense successes in fighting corporate media put it completely at cross purposes with Westminster’s domestic and foreign policies, which are to fund and train extremists in Ukraine and Syria, provide weapons to bomb Yemeni civilians and hospitals, and attack Russia sometime in the near future, whenever UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon gets over his performance anxiety.

Clause 41 of the Magna Carta, the championed origin of Western ‘democracy’, states the following:

All merchants may enter or leave England unharmed and without fear, […] in accordance with ancient and lawful customs. This, however, does not apply in time of war to merchants from a country that is at war with us. Any such merchants found in our country at the outbreak of war shall be detained without injury to their persons or property, until we or our chief justice have discovered how our own merchants are being treated in the country at war with us.

Therefore, the UK government, regardless of whatever asinine excuse it gives, in effect uses this clause to justify its actions within a national context, but outside of international law.

Consequently, RBS is 71.5% owned and operated by the Her Majesty’s Treasury and will refuse service to RT to protect state interests; this is an unfortunate reality the Russians must face.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Simonyan should consult Sun Tzu’s chapter on the Nine Situations for an solution and fortunately, there is one:

When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground.

Independent Economic Researcher Ian Pye profoundly observed a weakness in Britain’s plan of attack.  He stated.

“A large Chinese bank with a firm presence in London should take up NatWest’s slack. Much, much harder politically to sanction China.” 

RT simply has to visit 81 King Williams Street to open accounts with the Industrial and Commerce Bank of China (ICBC)—the largest bank in the world with a market capitalisation of $198 billion according to Forbes Magazine—and end the mindlessness of this state-sanctioned dispute.

The PRA recently awarded the ICBC a UK banking licence in September 2014, which allows it to operate freely within the country.

Michele Chen of London’s Squire Sanders law firm highlighted:

“…another significance of ICBC now having branch license is that Chinese banks are increasingly learning how to operate in a global environment, satisfying UK laws and regulations whilst providing a diverse range of products to customers.”

Those “diverse range of products” include sanction-free international banking for RT employees via Unionpay, backed by the Chinese Yuan. Also, as the ICBC is also state-owned, Russia and China can negotiate any contentious terms and conditions, such as excess capital controls on remittances, in order to facilitate the process, bypassing future punitive measures.

Russia Today must realise that it is waging an information war and will be treated as such by the UK authorities. There are material interests at stake for both countries, and indignation alone will do nothing more than frustrate the matter.

It must consider its options with ICBC or even the Bank of China to circumvent NatWest’s schizophrenic banking policies, and then embarrass them by continuing operations in the UK without the threat of sanctions. RT can even file a corporate lawsuit against NatWest if desired.

Finally, RT should keep in mind Mr. Courtney’s words, follow through, and then beef up its security.

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Haneul Na'avi
Haneul Na'avi is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst based in the United Kingdom. He has previously written for RT, Press TV, Global Research, and the Pravda Report.