One month ago, the bond market and political pundits did a double take when according to the latest Treasury International Capital report, Russia had liquidated virtually all of its US Treasury holdings, selling off the bulk of its US government bonds in just two months, March and April.
And with the US threatening to impose a new set of “crushing” sanctions on Russia, including in retaliation for the alleged Novichok nerve gas attack in the UK, Russia not only intends to continue liquidating its US holdings, but to significantly reduce its reliance on the US Dollar.
Speaking in an interview for the Rossiya 1 TV channel, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that Russia “aims to keep reducing its investments in American securities” following new U.S. sanctions and said that the “US dollar is becoming an unreliable tool for payments in international trade.” The minister also hinted at the possibility of using national currencies instead of the dollar in oil trade.
“I do not rule it out. We have significantly reduced our investment in US assets. In fact, the dollar, which is considered to be the international currency, becomes a risky tool for payments,” Siluanov noted.
On Friday, the Russian ruble sank to the lowest level in over two years after news about new US sanctions against Russia over the alleged poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK, coupled with general selling of emerging market currencies as a result of the growing Turkish financial crisis.
According to media reports, the first package will imply a complete ban on the export of electronic devices and dual-use components to Russia, whilst the second package may include a decrease in diplomatic relations, a ban on flights of Russia’s Aeroflot carrier to the United States and an almost complete suspension of US exports.
Siluanov said the sanctions are “unpleasant,” but nothing fatal. In response, Moscow will only continue to minimize investment in the US economy and securities and will push for payments in rubles and other currencies, including the euro.