A Dangerous Precedent

I’m hardly a Russian apologist; I’d as soon see the place cleared off and the land restored to the forest and steppe of an earlier era.


Russia is setting up to issue $3 billion in bonds, and they’ve invited a number of European, PRC, and American banks to bid on the issue—a standard government bond issue process, except that these are Russian bonds. Aside from that, the bonds are highly risky, but like many high-risk plays, the payoff can be lucrative. The decision to run a risk of this sort ordinarily is a business decision, made in a free market by the business’ managers and owners.


State and Treasury have

warned some top US banks not to bid on a potentially lucrative but politically risky Russian bond deal, saying it would undermine international sanctions on Moscow, people familiar with the matter said.

Our banks’ participation in the deal is entirely legal with those international sanctions in place. But State and Treasury don’t like them.

This isn’t a President using his bully pulpit to persuade Americans to do this, don’t do that, or support this other, though.

State in particular

warned of “reputational” risks of returning “to business as usual with Russia.”

This is an agency of the Federal government making sotto voce threats against an industry to force it to support a government policy that’s carefully not encoded in law or regulation.

The market, with its understanding of Russia, is fully capable of dealing “reputational” repercussions all by itself in a free economy.

Never mind that State and Treasury each have explicitly declined to set sanctions against Russian banking or the Russian government as a whole, or that either could, if such sanctions were useful. Never mind that Congress could legislate in that direction, if such a thing were useful.

That’s the dangerous precedent. Nice bank you got there. Be too bad if something happened….

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