I am an avid board game player. I’m not much for the classics like chess or go, preferring the more modern ones. But, regardless, as a person who appreciates the delicate balance between strategy and tactics, I have to say I am impressed with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sense of timing.
Because if there was ever a moment where Putin and Russia could inflict maximum pain on the United States via its Achilles’ heel, the financial markets and its unquenchable thirst for debt, it was this month just as the coronavirus was reaching its shores.
Like I said, I’m a huge game player and I especially love games where there is a delicate balance between player power that has to be maintained while it’s not one’s turn. Attacks have to be thwarted just enough to stop the person from advancing but not so much that they can’t help you defend on the next player’s turn.
All of that in the service of keeping the game alive until you find the perfect moment to punch through and achieve victory. Having watched Putin play this game for the past eight years, I firmly believe there is no one in a position of power today who has a firmer grasp of this than him.
And I do believe this move to break OPEC+ and then watch Mohammed bin Salman break OPEC was Putin’s big judo-style reversal move. And by doing so in less than a week he has completely shut down the U.S. financial system.
On Friday March 6th, Russia told OPEC no. By Wednesday the 11th The Federal Reserve had already doubled its daily interventions into the repo markets to keep bank liquidity high.
By noon on the 12th the Fed announced $1.5 trillion in new repo facilities including three-month repo contracts. At one point during trading that day the entire U.S. Treasury market went bidless. There was no one out there making an offer for the most liquid, sought-after financial assets in the world.
Why? Prices were so high, no one wanted them.
Not only did we get a massive expansion of the repo interventions by the Fed,