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Russian Stocks Plunge, Bitcoin Falls as Putin YoYos Markets

The Russian stocks RTS index has dived 5% today with Nasdaq down 1.75% while European stocks fell close to 1%.

Bitcoin, after nearing $45,000 again, fell just below $42,000, while oil is a bit up for the day though still at that circa $93, its highest level since 2014.

Oil price, Feb 2022
Oil price, Feb 2022

Oil looks more volatile than bitcoin with its crazy up spikes and instant crashes, although this is on weekly timeframes.

Yet in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia and in 2014 when they invaded Ukraine, oil crashed both times to the support of $30-$40.

US has sent two officials to Saudi Arabia to boost oil production, with it to be seen whether supply will increase as prices soar.

Oil also appears to be inversely correlated with stocks and bitcoin, at least for now. So we had Monday when markets were concerned Russia’s president Vladimir Putin might go into Ukraine just after meeting German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Bitcoin and stocks fell on Monday, oil and gold rose, but Scholz managed to get some de-escalation, so bitcoin and stocks rose, oil and gold fell on Tuesday.

On Wednesday US was saying no sign of troops withdrawals, so markets didn’t know what to do, with matters appearing to worsening now on Thursday and so we have bitcoin and stocks down, oil up and gold has also gained 1.78% to $1893, up $50 from the low this week.

All of which clearly indicates markets are following every movement that is happening in Ukraine, with the new date of invasion now, according to Politico, being February 20th.

That’s always been the speculated date really. It’s when the Olympics is over and it’s a Sunday, which should be a day of rest but not if you’re of the devil rather than of god, so it may be the day after on Monday, or better still, there is no war at all.

It’s also when the exercises in Belarus end. So Russian troops should be leaving Belarus on Sunday or they go in.

Ahead of it, rather than de-escalating, tensions have again escalated with the Kremlin claiming genocide in Donbas, an area controlled by Russian backed forces and which was described by Russia’s state media just two days ago as all nice and peaceful.

14,000 Ukrainians have died in this conflict since 2014 due to Russia invading the country.

Just four years prior, in 2010 the then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement with Ukraine for a base in Crimea in return for discounted gas. Putin tore up that agreement by invading Crimea, giving no more discounted gas in plain theft.

Now there are reports of an increase in shelling at the frontier in Donbas, with Ukraine saying Russian backed forces started it, while Kremlin says Ukraine started it. All we know is that a kindergarten was hit in a government controlled nearby village by Russian backed militia, injuring a teacher and two others, though no children as they were in another room.

Kindergarten shelled in Ukraine, Feb 2022
Kindergarten shelled in Ukraine, Feb 2022

Russia has now responded to US’ response regarding Russia’s demands that include the removal of all US troops and bases from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia, all countries that joined after 1997.

They further demand no expansion of Nato, and a rewind of it back to 1997. In return, Russia offers nothing, but threatens military-technical action.

Nato members including Germany and UK have increased troops in the eastern flank of Nato in response to these Quixotic demands. While the threat of military-technical action gives further credence to this whole will he or will he not go into Ukraine especially after amassing 130,000 troops at the border.

So markets are watching every move and weighing every development with China now seemingly rebuking Putin as their foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin says:

“The leadership of the two heads of state, China and Russia, always work to develop long term good neighbourliness and mutually beneficial cooperative relationship on the basis of non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third countries.”

Russia is clearly targeting a third country, Ukraine, in addition to partially invading Georgia, Moldova, Syria, Libya and Mali as well as Kazakhstan briefly.

This war approach that Russia seems to follow must make an economy-first China very nervous, not least because the two share a very long border and have before directly fought each other within the living memory of baby boomers.

China, at least claims, to follow a geopolitics modeled more on the approach of Germany, checkbook diplomacy as it might be called.

As such, sending tanks and subjugating people must sound barbarian to even the Chinese. In addition, you would think they would do anything they can to avoid any disruption in the European market, the world’s biggest when including all of Europe nations without Russia and without even Turkey.

They might be especially concerned by the response from Russia, certainly if they do go into Ukraine, because from that response Putin seems to indicate he won’t stop there, he’ll go all the way to the doors of Germany if he is not stopped.

Hence why Scholz said a further invasion of Ukraine would have “strategic consequences,” but the response does also leave room for further diplomacy in areas where there are no upheavals to the global order, such as greater transparency.

The United States made that offer on those matters as a good will gesture because with a far bigger economy, especially when combined with Europe, they can just choose to cut off Russia completely from any relations instead.

That’s exactly what might happen if he does further invade Ukraine with a whole package of sanctions ready to go immediately which would isolate Russia as there is no guarantee at all China would back them, especially because if it came to choosing between Europe and Russia, no one will choose Russia over Europe due to its market being negligible by comparison.

Thus, now that markets are being affected you’d expect pressure to increase considerably for the troops to be withdrawn immediately because this situation can’t continue to the point of the world economy being made a joke.

Not least because it probably won’t be long until pressure rises on Scholz to phone Beijing which is already beginning to sound like Putin is a bit of a liability for them.

Especially as Shanghai has not quite raptured with the west and has room to normalize relations especially if there’s the opportunity for a new start in October.

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