Russia’s Plans for a “Fire Escape” Currency

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by Byron King, Daily Reckoning:

It may be a new year, but Russia makes no secret of its long-term dissatisfaction with U.S. politics, the dollar and, by extension, U.S. monetary hegemony in the world.

Russia has been under U.S./Western economic sanctions for over three years. Meanwhile, oil prices have been “lower for longer,” as the saying goes, due to global competition for market share from U.S. fracking. The overall impact of these phenomena has been costly to the Russian economy.

Still, Russia has persevered through all manner of external economic roadblocks. The Russian view is sanguine, and that, as time passes, the dollar is in trouble, for a lengthy list of reasons.

Indeed, Russia’s strategic intent is clear…

To escape the constraints and political risks of a dollar-denominated world. In fact, Russian leaders are forming a new currency arrangement that will allow them to do exactly that.

My partner Jim Rickards and I call this new phenomenon Russia’s “fire escape” currency. It’s coming down the line, and smart investors can profit from it.

First though, you need to understand the Russian view of the dollar.

At the highest levels of Russian governance, officials are deeply concerned with what they perceive as U.S. political meddling and bullying, based on the dollar.

Western economic sanctions are part of this. The U.S. and Western partners have blocked all manner of trade in goods and services with Russia, and extended the blockage to many Russian export items as well.

Plus, Russia chafes under restrictions on transferring funds via the international SWIFT system (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). There are many other issues related to the dollar, as well. Far too many to list here.

But, it’s fair to say that Russian policymakers hold profound distrust and resentment towards how the U.S. has, in their view, abused the status of the dollar as the predominant international reserve currency.

As far back as 2011, at a major conference in Russia, Vladimir Putin said, “They (USA) are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy… They (USA) are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar.”

Unsurprisingly, since 2011, Russia has pushed back against dollar-hegemony. Among other things, Russia has accumulated a large amount of gold.

In fact, in the past six years, Russia has more than doubled its official, publicly-acknowledged, state holdings of gold, as this chart makes clear.

Russia has broadcast news of this gold buildup to the entire world. Russian policymakers want people to know about the gold stash.

For example, according to a recent article in Russia’s Sputnik News, Russia’s monetary policy has the Kremlin’s central bank “Stacking Bullion Bricks Like There Is No Tomorrow.”

Many Russians regard those gold bricks as a “strategic reserve” for the country. That’s because Russian culture is imbued with a deep-seated military viewpoint, formed over many centuries of warfare between that nation and its external enemies and invaders.

So, Russians see physical gold as a critical substance, held back and out of normal usage, in case of need during an emergency.

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