MarketWatch posted a piece postulating that Putin’s stockpiling of gold reserves was actually a death watch for the U.S.’s position at the top of the economic ladder at the hands of — you guessed it — the Chinese.
The writer, Brett Arends, used this logic, and it makes sense if you like the idea of casting Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Evil Prince cackling in his dark, brooding Kremlin as he awaits our Shining City on the Hill to finally collapse under the weight of its own debt into the surging Yellow Sea.
The International Monetary Fund has said that if current economic trends hold sway, the U.S. will lose its status as the world’s largest economy to China by 2017. Because these kinds of power shifts in the world seldom happen peacefully, the Russians as an emerging economy are eager to shift their reserves away from other people’s currency, especially from the U.S., which Putin has likened to a global economic parasite.
In other words, Putin does not expect the dollar, pound, yen, or other reserve currencies to remain stable if and when the U.S. falls to second place. ”We will soon be the first people in two hundred years to live in a world not dominated by either Pax Americana or Pax Britannica. This sort of changing of the guard has never been peaceful,” wrote Arends.
Just for context, Russia now holds 918 tons, or 9.2% of its foreign reserves in gold. It has more than doubled its gold holdings over the last five years. The Great Parasite U.S. holds around 75%, or 8,133.5 tons, of its reserves or in gold while China holds 1.6%, or 1,054.1 tons, reports Business Insider.
But Arends isn’t much of a gold fan right now. Outside of a peaceful transfer of world economic power from the U.S. to China in 2017, he wrote, there is little reason to hold gold.
Not everyone is convinced that the “American Empire is dying” theory holds any water explains the Putin gold buy. Tim Iacono at Seeking Alpha thinks the Arends piece misses the point on economic grounds entirely. He called Arends’ piece “loopy,” adding:
How anyone could think that, in our modern financial system, the “store of value” attribute of money is no longer important – one that paper money has been increasingly failing at in recent decades – is beyond me and demonstrates an ongoing lack of understanding of the history of money:
“You can forget claims that it’s “real” money. There’s no such thing. Money is just an accounting device, a way of keeping track of how much each of us produces and consumes.”
This statement pretty well sums up this writer’s complete lack of knowledge on how money has traditionally functioned. He’s either from a completely new school of economics or else he hasn’t done his due diligence as a journalist.
There is another, slightly less alarmist explanation for Russia’s gold buildup. This is Russia’s desire to see the ruble become a future reserve currency, a long-term prospect indeed. Reserve currency status would require transparency, economic strength, as well as liquidity for Russia. ”Since 2006, Russia has been gradually accumulating gold in order to diversify and protect from devaluation of their dollar and euro foreign exchange reserves, and as part of a long-term plan to position the Russian rouble as an international reserve currency,” Business Insider wrote.
On the Arends piece, the commenters do a great job balancing the story. Wrote one commenter:
Wow how paranoid can a columnist get? Putin is a war-crimes criminal because he put 3 drug-crazed women who name themselves after their genitals and desecrate Christian church services?
Now he’s an evil spirit because he wants to stop buying US treasuries which may become worthless?
Russia is 3rd biggest buyer of US bonds, after Japan and China. These two countries are also moving away from dollars as fast as they can.
Of course he is worried about his country’s financial standing and prosperity. Russia has a rising middle class. He and his economic team are not idiots, they prefer gold to dollars. Only a fool would choose to stockpile dollars over gold or silver.
Lately whenever Russia comes up in polite conversations (especially between Americans), count on emotions to take over and emotions to go straight over the sidewall. That said, I don’t expect the U.S. to lose it’s economic dominance in 2017 either.