Russian rubles is sinking.

Russian rubles is sinking.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Russian rubles is sinking

The Russian ruble fell to a historic low of less than one US cent on Monday, and major global stock markets fell as Western nations sought to exclude some Russian banks from using a global payment system.

Given the tremendous potential economic impact, particularly on inflation and oil supply, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led markets to fluctuate violently.

Putin’s directive to boost the readiness of Russian nuclear weapons for launch heightened tensions with Europe and the United States, reawakening Cold War-era anxieties.

In a frantic bid to prop up the plunging ruble and avert a bank run, Russia’s central bank upped its benchmark rate to 20% from 9.5 percent. This provided a small reprieve for the Russian ruble, which momentarily returned to its previous level.

It went as low as 119 to the dollar and was down 14 percent by lunchtime in Europe, trading at 95.75 to the dollar.

At 8:49 a.m. in Moscow, Russia’s currency had fallen as high as 1.4 percent to 78.2900 per dollar and was 0.1 percent lower. This came after a 2.8 percent drop on Friday. Even after the central bank raised interest rates by 100 basis points for the third time in less than a year on Friday, tensions over Ukraine have weighed on the ruble.

On Sunday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that there’s “a distinct possibility” that “major military action will be taken very soon,” following up on statements made on Friday that Russia might strike or try to start a conflict in Ukraine this week. Russia has rejected intentions to attack its neighbor on several occasions, and Russian authorities accuse the US of inciting “hysteria.”

The currency has dropped by more than 30% following the decision to exclude Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system. The sanctions are intended, among other things, to limit the Russian central bank’s access to almost $600 billion in reserves and its capacity to maintain the currency.

A weakened currency is projected to lead to higher inflation, perhaps enraged Russians whose budgets would be pushed by rising expenses. It will also exacerbate stresses in Russia’s banking systems.

How Russia is taking steps to minimize the threat arising from sanctions?

Vladimir V. Putin’s stance toward the West during the recent Ukraine conflict is belligerent, even for him. But there might be more to his assurance than military might or meaningless bravado.

Mr. Putin, Russia’s president, has rebuilt his country’s economy in recent years in order to withstand Western financial pressure.

Russia has significantly decreased its reliance on dollars, and hence Washington’s power. It has amassed massive currency reserves and slashed its expenditures in order to keep its economy and government services running even in the face of isolation. It has restructured commerce and attempted to replace Western imports.

This change is one of the most spectacular examples of “sanctions-proofing” in the world, coming less than eight years after Western sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 engulfed Russia in economic and political turmoil.

Russia’s fortified economic defenses may help explain why Mr. Putin is now willing to conduct another military incursion into Ukraine, despite the long-term consequences of his move in Crimea.

Nonetheless, his improvements give simply a buffer against penalties, not an impenetrable fortress. The strongest actions under discussion in Washington would virtually probably be implemented, causing potentially devastating damage while also damaging Western economies.

Mr. Putin has also learned how to keep Russia’s powerful political and corporate elite (who keep him in power in the same manner that voters keep democratic leaders in office) loyal even in the face of sanctions.

A Russian company or individual might, for example, exchange rubles earned in Russia into foreign cash at a Russian bank. Alternatively, because the ruble has a significant propensity to lose value versus other currencies, that Russian company or individual might open an account in a Russian bank denominated in euros or dollars. Both of these activities are permitted in postcommunist Russia.

The majority of these ruble-to-foreign-currency transactions take the form of computer clicks that credit or debit financial institutions’ computerized ledgers. The deposit of rubles into a bank is as simple as a click. Another click is the exchange of rubles into euros or dollars. One more click and the foreign cash will be in the Russian customer’s account. Isn’t it true that genuine paper money is rarely exchanged? According to Bernstam’s analysis, there is only roughly $12 billion in cash dollars and euros within Russia. In contrast, the Russian private sector has foreign-currency claims on Russian banks totaling $65 billion, according to Bernstam. Russia’s state-owned enterprises have amassed even greater claims on the country’s foreign reserves.

Russia may have sought to pull down its foreign-currency reserves with Western central banks in order to finance its conflict in Ukraine. The Russian central bank would instruct the Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank to credit X billion dollars or euros from the Russian central bank to this or that private Russian bank. This bank would then credit the accounts of Russian corporations or individuals. These firms or individuals would then pay Western corporations who owed them money.

This all, of course, necessitates the assistance of the Fed or ECB in the first place. “Nope,” the Fed or ECB may say. Sorry. The Russian central bank’s funds have been frozen. There will be no transfers of dollars or euros from Russia’s central bank to commercial banks. Transfers from commercial banks to firms or individuals are not permitted. For all intents and purposes, you’re bankrupt.” It would be a shocking, but not unusual, action. After the revolutionary regime kidnapped US diplomats as hostages in 1979, the US did it to Iran.

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