Earlier this month, Putin summoned senior economic officials, including central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina, to express his displeasure with the country’s faltering economic growth outlook. Jittery investors are pulling money out of the country, with more than $50 billion in capital flight projected for the first quarter this year, not far from the $63 billion that leaked out of Russia during the whole of last year.
Russia’s central bank is sitting on some $440 billion in foreign exchange reserves, so the country isn’t in danger of an imminent cash crunch. Still, the bank has spent $23 billion in currency markets in the past two weeks alone. Previously, these funds were deployed to stem declines in the ruble’s value, but well-timed interventions can also extend rallies, as was perhaps the thinking yesterday and today.
Here's an excerpt from my March 3rd commentary on the topic:
One, the U.S. market’s experience with political, geo or otherwise, events of late—think debt ceiling standoffs, budget battles, “fiscal cliffs” and Syria—has been that politicians will forever politic their way (kick the can) to a market-soothing resolution. It’ll be interesting to see if indeed Putin is as careless when it comes to the economic consequences (at home) of his actions as some pundits claim. They’d have to be right if this is indeed to escalate to a level that would cause the market some serious consternation. For, when it comes to energy, for one example, Russia is no longer (potentially) the only game in town, and Putin knows it. And, suffice it to say, if the presently plummeting ruble is any indication, Russia’s economy will have hell to pay if Putin can’t, sooner than later, find a face-saving way out of this mess he’s gotten himself into. Of course he had to know this going in, which is reason to be concerned.
And here's my March 10 commentary in its entirety:
Bloomberg‘s editors are calling for China to speak out “now against Putin’s aggression.” Which I suspect wouldn’t hurt. However, I’m still thinking that Putin has traded (as in international trade) himself into a corner on this one. As I suggested the other day, the pundits who believe they know Putin have to be spot on (that he cares not about the Russian economy) if he’s to go the distance in Ukraine.
Here’s Bloomberg’s accounting of who’s beholden to whom:
If Putin continues to advance in Ukraine, forcing a military confrontation or breakup of the country, he may well push China to take a stronger stand. The truth is that in material terms, China gains less than Russia does from their relationship. The latter accounts for a little more than 2 percent of China’s external trade. While volumes are growing, in 2011 China got only about 6 percent of its imported oil from Russia.
And here Bloomberg’s editors tell of how Russia is playing in other sandboxes as well:
And though China is Russia’s largest trading partner, Putin has also been hedging his bets. He has sought to expand rail links, pipelines and energy exports not just to China but also to both Koreas and to China’s archrival Japan. Russia is aiming to sell sophisticated weaponry to India, and has deepened economic and military relations with Vietnam.
So will Russia, for all its courting, garner international support for a continued advance in Ukraine? Well, think of it this way: if there’s one thing China, South Korea, Japan and India have in common, it’s that they’re all beholden to the economies of the U.S. and the European Union, and vice versa.
Not that it can’t happen, but clearly, the more Russia looks to expand its economic interests, the less stomach it’ll have for war…
Of course I don't know how this all ends, but I'm quite certain that the more the world's superpowers trade with one another the less likely they are to go to war with one another...