The West will no longer be able to liquidate, until the end of the year, the holdings of its companies in Russia in the banking and energy sectors. This was ordered by a recent decree signed by the president Vladimir Putin which requires companies in countries indicated as “hostile” to maintain their economic presence in the Federation and prevents liquidating their assets in the sectors indicated by selling them to local actors, as announced in recent months by several big Westerners, from British Petroleum to the Societé Generale.
The move appears to be Moscow’s direct response to Europe’s formalization of policies to cut gas consumption and the green light to the Russian coal embargo, as well as the new confiscation and freezing of assets (company shares, gold, owned by the oligarchs) in the United States and the United Kingdom. And it has systemic significance for three reasons: first, Russia intends crystallize the internal situation preventing Western actors from unilaterally leaving the country by taking out their technical skills, deconstructing market dynamics that Moscow wants to keep intact for when it believes better times will return. Secondly, he wants to avoid the accentuation of the flight of capital and skills from the country. Finally, it wants to exert indirect pressure on the governments of the former partners by shielding themselves behind their companies: any sanctions and restrictions imposed on the Russian internal market will cause damage to the local branches of the groups that will be prevented from leaving Russia.
In accordance to Energy Intelligence could anticipate, Putin’s decree in the energy field will mainly affect those projects that the Moscow government will not intend to continue without the support of Western capital. The decree “applies to the Kharyaga production sharing agreement, in which the French Total and the Norwegian Equinor previously reported the transfer of their shareholdings (20% and 30% respectively) to the operator Zarubezhneft”; in addition, “temporarily prevents BP from proceeding with plans to sell its 19.75% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft and to US Exxon Mobil from divesting its 30% stake in the Sakhalin-1 oil project in the Far East. Russian”. To be interested, potentially, too Is in the which plans to sell its 56.43% stake in Enel Russia (which owns three 5.6 GW power plants and two wind farms) to Lukoil and the Gazprombank-Frezia fund.
The list of companies that will be indicated as targets for this maneuver will be published this week on the initiative of the governor of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina. The appreciation of the ruble makes it essential for Moscow to keep foreign financial players on its soil. Citigroup, for example, announced that it has long since been phasing out the country but revealed an exposure of $ 8.4 billion in Russia as of June 30, up slightly from $ 7.9 billion at the end of the year. first quarter. Among the Italian banks, they would be an optimal target for a containment maneuver Unicredit and Intesa. In June, Piazza Gae Aulenti halved its residual exposure to Russia from $ 5.4 billion to $ 2.7 billion and, as noted The messenger, for some time “has been working to sell and not sell off its assets to third countries not affected by the sanctions”. A move that may now be impossible to carry out. Two weeks ago, however, Intesa devalued its positions in Russia by 1.13 billion and evaluates the future of its presence in the country.
Putin’s counter-sanctioning maneuver requires, in this context, to actively think about how the economic warfare can take different forms in present times. In the Russian strategy coexist both policies of stealing the assets of companies that have announced the exit from Russia, and strategies aimed at increasing Europe’s energy bills, and sectoral embargoes in the fields in which Moscow manages its strategy together. The overlap between the energy market and finance is nowadays one of Europe’s weak points and has represented Russia’s anti-sanctions lifebuoy, which until now has used the export of gas, oil and coal to defend the exchange rate of the ruble.
Preventing Westerners from leaving this sector means trying, among other things, to send a message of strength in a context that sees sanctions biting into many productive activities but saving the hard core of the Russian system. In its own way, however, this “freeze” policy also shows that Russia is not independent and sovereign on the technological front in several areas crucial to its survival. It is as true for the West as it is for Moscow: every sanctioning policy is a two-faced Janus. Highlighting both the strengths and weaknesses of a system. Which for Moscow do not fail to accumulate. The certainty, for now, is that of a great instability. To be carefully evaluated as autumn approaches and with it the specter of an all-out conflict over sanctions, energy, currencies.