In a testament to the success of the latest Trump sanctions against Russia, overnight Russian aluminum giant Rusal announced that its chief executive, Aleksandra Buriko, and half of its managerial board resigned to make sure the firm avoids U.S. sanctions against its founder, billionaire oligarch, Oleg Deripaska. The mass resignations were part of "the efforts that have been made by the management of the group to protect the interests of the company and its shareholders” since the sanctions were imposed last month, Rusal said in a May 24 statement.
Buriko resigned after the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new punitive measures against Russia in early April in response to Russia's "malign" activities around the world. The latest round of sanctions primarily targeted Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, especially Oleg Deripaska - who had previously been interviewed by Robert Mueller - prompting Rusal shares to tumble while the price of aluminum soared.
That said, Rusal is not out of the woods yet, and earlier today Bloomberg reported that Deripaska had asked the Russian government to buy aluminum for state reserves, in other words engage in an indirect bailout of the state's largest aluminum producer, although the Kremlin hasn't made a decision yet. Furthermore, Rusal which is facing significant debt maturities in the coming months, has applied for state support to Promsvyazbank, and a decision is pending.
The common theme here is that Trump's sanctions against Russia - with which he is supposedly colluding - not only work, but are very effective in achieving their goal. And they do so though the biggest weapon the US has: access to the world's reserve currency, because with one phone call to SWIFT, Trump can lock out an entire nation.
So what alternatives is Russia planning, aside of course from increasingly closer trade, financial and monetary ties to China, which renminbi many speculate is only a matter of time before it replaces the USD as the world's reserve currency?
Addressing precisely this issue, Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that settlements in US currency could be dropped by Russia in favor of the euro. That said, Russia would only engage in such an unprecedented transition under one condition: if the EU takes a stand against the latest US sanctions on Moscow.
"As we see, restrictions imposed by the American partners are of an extraterritorial nature. The possibility of switching from the US dollar to the euro in settlements depends on Europe’s stance toward Washington’s position,” said Siluanov, who is also Russia’s first deputy prime minister.
Is there even a remote possibility Europe would entertain such a dramatic shift in alliances? Well... the EU initially supported Washington’s sanctions against Moscow, but has recently criticized US President Donald Trump’s policy of imposing trade restrictions on other countries. The EU was also hit by the introduction of US import duties on steel and aluminum. The situation escalated even more after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, a move which Europe has refused to acknowledge and has slammed the Trump administration for acting unilaterally and without coordination.
“If our European partners declare their position unequivocally, we could definitely see a way to use the European common currency for financial settlements, such as payments for goods and services, which today are often subject to restrictions,” Siluanov added, dangling the bait in front of Merkel and Macron.
Siluanov concluded that Russia is already developing settlements in national currencies with its trading partners, among which is none other than China, which means that should the Europe respond affirmatively, overnight the entire monetary balance of power in the world would shift away from the US and toward Eurasia.
We now await Europe's response.