Friday, 10 March 2017 18:20

Trump Calls Obama's Policies On Russia Weak, But It Appears That Russia Cannot Agree Featured

 Donald Trump's recent Tweet discusses how Russia has gotten stronger at the behest of President Obama.


 Let's take an empirical look at that claim.

During the first and second quarter of 2014, the Obama Administration has put significant pressure on Russia in the form of personal, corporate, financial, trade and infrastructure related sanctions and related stress - as stated in the US Treasury web site:

WASHINGTON – In response to Russia’s continued attempts to destabilize eastern Ukraine and its ongoing occupation of Crimea, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy, and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.  More specifically: 

  • Treasury imposed sanctions that prohibit U.S. persons from providing new financing to two major Russian financial institutions (Gazprombank OAO and VEB) and two Russian energy firms (OAO Novatek and Rosneft), limiting their access to  U.S. capital markets; 
  • Treasury designated eight Russian arms firms, which are responsible for the production of a range of materiel that includes small arms, mortar shells, and tanks;
  • Treasury designated the “Luhansk People’s Republic” and the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” which have asserted governmental authority over parts of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine; and Aleksandr Borodai, the self-declared “prime minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic, for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine;
  • Treasury designated Feodosiya Enterprises, a key shipping facility in the Crimean peninsula, because it is complicit in the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; and
  • Treasury designated four Russian government officials, including Sergey Beseda, a senior Russian Federal Security Service official. 

Here's an infographic that show's the flow...

Sanctions graphic

On top of these sanctions, Russia's primary export (oil) has been on a startk structural and cyclical decline in price as supply outstrips demand in an uncertain macro environment. I have written extensively on this below:

As a matter of fact, the Russian oil and gas industry didn't start doing better in the equity markets until indications that Trump could win, and eventually did win the election.

Russua Oil gas indexin Eur

The combination of weakening oil prices and punishing sanctions have definitely taken their toll on the Russian economy. While the rest of Europe showed some economic growth, Russia stagnated and fell into negative growth right about the time Obama's sanctions were implemented and then tightened. The Obama admin and the EU have made it illegal for their companies to buy debt with maturity of more than 30 days from key Russian banks. The U.S. sanctions bar American companies from providing goods or services for the deepwater, Arctic and offshore and shale energy projects of five Russian companies: Rosneft, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil and Surgutneftegas.

Russia’s total export revenues have dropped significantly, causing  it to cut its imports by half. The oil crunch was strategically tighted by the financial sanctions, which prevent the country from accessing the cash flow to mitigate the drop in export revenue. Normally, Russia is considered quite credit-worthy with a what was a 10% public debt to GDP ratio. The problem with that is if you can't access public credit markets it really doesn't matter, with the result being you are now not creditworthy. On Jan. 9, 2015 Fitch Ratings cut Russia’s credit rating to BBB-, which is the final notch above a junk rating. This is the history of Russia's credit rating from 4 years before the sanctions were implmented to now. Take note, that the latest numbers do not take into consideration the most recent round of Obama administraton punitive measures which are likely clandestine and will resulte in a lag before they show up in economic numbers.

Moody's Ba1 stable Feb 17 2017
Fitch BBB- stable Oct 14 2016
S&P BB+ stable Sep 16 2016
Moody's Ba1 negative Apr 22 2016
IE 51 negative Apr 16 2016
TE 43 negative Apr 16 2016
Moody's Ba1 negative watch Mar 04 2016
Moody's Ba1 stable Dec 03 2015
Moody's Ba1 negative Feb 20 2015
S&P BB+ negative Jan 26 2015
Moody's Baa3 negative watch Jan 16 2015
Fitch BBB- negative Jan 09 2015
S&P BBB- negative watch Dec 23 2014
Moody's Baa2 negative Oct 17 2014
Moody's Baa1 negative Jun 27 2014
S&P BBB- negative Apr 25 2014
IE 61 negative Apr 22 2014
Moody's Baa1 negative watch Mar 28 2014
IE 61 negative Mar 21 2014
Fitch BBB negative Mar 21 2014
S&P BBB negative Mar 20 2014
IE 61 stable Oct 15 2013
IE 61 stable Jul 18 2013
IE 61 stable Jun 10 2013
Fitch BBB stable Jan 16 2012
IE 61 stable Nov 28 2011
IE 61 stable Aug 05 2011
IE 61 stable Aug 02 2011
IE 61 stable Jul 14 2011
IE 61 stable Jul 13 2011
IE 61 stable Apr 18 2011
Fitch BBB positive Sep 08 2010

This all started during the 2nd quarter of 2014 sanction implementations. Take a look at the Russian economy as of that point, keeping in mind that most of the rest of Europe started to grow (albeit with ridiculously drastic NIRP and QE policies).


Rusisian GDP growth rate

Long story, short - it is extremely misleading to state that Russia has walked all over the Obama administration. If numbers and math mean anything, it is the Obama administration which has done such to the Russians. It's quite likely this 3rd set of punitive measures and sanctions as the result of Russian's alleged meddling in the US elections will push the country deep into recession as the majority of the US capability is not public. Obama has expelled 35 diplomats and frozen some addition assets, but the US has alleged to have significant control over Russian financial, energy and communications infrastructure as well. The recent Wikileaks #Vault7 data dump gives us a peek into what's possible from a remote location.

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