Now, Russia is paying a hefty price to pay for Crimea. The losses in value of the 50 largest companies in the Moscow stock exchange since 28 February (when Russia occupied Crimea), amount to $110,000 million (€79,000 million). That almost double the nearly €42,000 million tab of the Sochi Olympic Games.
So far, Russian banks are receiving fewer loans from their Western counterparts, and the Russian central bank has had to raise rates to stop (so far, unsuccessfully) capital outflows and a weak ruble. That risks creating a credit crunch in an economy that maybe will grow less than 1 percent this year.
At this moment, Russia could be preparing for a wave of sanctions. Reserves Treasuries foreign central banks in the Federal Reserve fell plummeted in the last week by $104.000 million (nearly €75,000 million) to $2,855 trillion (€2 billion). This decline is unprecedented, and has sparked a wave of speculation about whether Russia is selling U.S. bonds to try to hold the ruble or whether it is simply removing these assets from the ‘Fed’ to avoid Washington to freeze them.
That second option is, in spite of all the media speculation, extremely unlikely: there are very few chances the US would seize a foreign central bank’s assets in Federal Reserve. Doing that would be tantamount to go back to the Cold War days—or even worse. So, it seems more plausible that Moscow is simply trying to keep those Treasuries away from Washington and Wall Street’s scrutiny, and use them to prop up the ruble.
Moscow has some other assets, but their utility is uncertain, to say the least. Maybe the most important is the gold. Russia is the eighth country by gold reserves, with more than 1,000 tons of gold. Putin can order selling part of it to get dollars, but he would risk damaging the gold price and shooting himself in the foot. So far, the economic equation surrounding Russia’s actions in Ukraine is far murkier than the political side of the crisis, but it seems clear that, in the money front, things are not going too well for Putin.