Russia’s Financials Are Far Better Than the Wests’; It Could Pay off All External Debt Tomorrow

Russia’s external debt has been falling steadily and reached $326.6bn in December 2023, compared with $322.3bn in the previous quarter and $383.6bn at the end of 2022. It could pay the entire amount off tomorrow – in cash.

The Kremlin has been paying off its external debt. Low external debt means Russia doesn’t need to tap international capital markets so is not vulnerable to any sort of sanctions on bond issues, which are easy to apply and enforce.

Coupled with Russia’s strong current account surplus, which was up to $5.2bn in February from $4.5bn in January, thanks to high oil prices, Russia can fund itself easily on this profit.

At the same time gross international reserves have been rising and are now hovering around $600bn at the end of the first quarter. Half of these reserves are frozen. About $150bn are in monetary gold (up from $135bn pre-war) and the rest in yuan.

Even counting out the frozen funds, Russia can cover its external debt dollar for dollar with cash, whereas everyone in the West is massively leveraged, including the Ukraine where the debt-to-GDP ratio is almost at 100%.

It is these rock-solid fundamentals – no one else in world has even remotely similar metrics – which is the essence of Putin’s Fiscal Fortress. It is a ridiculously strong basis, which means even if the West manages to reduce Russia income from oil and gas exports, it will still have a massive amount of wiggle room.

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