- The White House said Thursday Russia is likely to default on its debts in a sign of its “pariah” status.
- Russia has $100 million of bond payments due Friday, in the biggest test yet of its ability to get money to investors.
- The fate of the payments are highly uncertain after the US Treasury closed a key loophole this week.
The White House has said Russia is likely to default on its foreign bonds in a sign of the country’s “pariah” status, with the Kremlin facing a major $100 million test on Friday.
Russia has two bond coupon payments due in dollars and euros Friday, but the fate of that money is highly uncertain after the US Treasury this week closed a key loophole that allowed cash to get around sanctions and into investors’ accounts.
The Russian government has so far kept up payments on its foreign-currency bonds despite a widespread belief that it would default under the weight of sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine.
However, Moscow’s efforts to keep paying its debts became a lot more complicated this week when the US Treasury ended the sanctions exemption that allowed American investors to receive money from Russian bonds.
The US now expects the Russian government to default, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.
“Russia will likely fail to meet its obligations and face default in an enduring sign as their status of a pariah in the global financial system,” she told reporters.
However, Moscow said last week it has already sent the money through to its National Settlement Depositary in an effort to get ahead of the US ending of the exemption, which was announced Tuesday night.
Yet the money must arrive in investors’ accounts in full, or Russia is likely to be deemed to be in default. If the cash doesn’t get through on Friday, a 30-day grace period will begin in which payment must be made.
Russia is supposed to pay $71 million on a dollar-denominated bond and 29 million euros ($31.2 million) on a euro-denominated bond on Friday.
Both bonds are subject to contracts that allow for payment in other currencies in some circumstances. For the euro-denominated bond, that includes payment in Russian rubles.
The White House said it thinks the risks to the global economy are small if Russia doesn’t get the money to bondholders and falls into a default.
“We expect the impact on the US and the global economy to be minimal, given Russia has already been isolated financially,” Jean-Pierre said.
Russia has accused the US of trying to force it into an “artificial” default.
“There are funds, and there is a willingness to pay,” Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Wednesday. “This situation is artificially created by an unfriendly country.”
The Finance Ministry said it will pay its dollar debts in rubles in the future. However, international banks have said such a move would put Russia in default.
Even so, Russia has found ways to get its debt payments to investors before, despite the US ramping up sanctions.
Strategists at Russian broker ITI Capital have said many of Russia’s bondholders are European entities who can still technically receive payments. This could complicate US bondholders’ efforts to officially deem Moscow to have defaulted, they said.