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Russia's Struggle To Meet Sovereign Debt Obligations

Default looms.

Photo by Haseesh Rahithya on Unsplash
Moscow City Skyline by Haseesh Rahithya on Unsplash

A bit of history first. In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, ended the Tsarist rule. Russia then had one of the world's biggest foreign debts. And the Bolsheviks refused to honor Tsarist debt, which shocked global debt markets. Tsarist notes were worth nothing, and some used them as wallpaper.

Fast forward to 2014. Western sanctions, imposed following the annexation of Crimea, taught Russia a lesson. It slashed its sovereign debt from $700 billion to $500 billion. It has also built the world's fourth-largest foreign reserves cache of $640 billion. Russia's debt load is roughly 18% of GDP. For comparison, it is 102% for the United States.

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