At a video conference with colleagues from the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev made an economic forecast:
“The main reason for the jump in food and energy prices is the printing press operating in the US and Europe. The uncontrolled growth of borrowing has led to the fact that the US national debt has exceeded $30 trillion, and Japan, the closest American ally, has approached $10 trillion. Given these dynamics, there is every reason to believe that in the foreseeable future these countries will have problems servicing this debt. As a result, Washington will default, as they have already done, on obligations to Russia. The financial assets of any state denominated in US dollars and euros will simply be stolen.”
What Patrushev calls a default on Russia is actually part of the sanctions imposed in connection with the attack on Ukraine - the freezing of Russian assets. It has nothing to do with the state of the American economy.
As for the real default in the US, Russian officials and propagandists have repeatedly declared its imminence. So, in July 2019, Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote in an article under the heading “Analysts predicted an imminent US default”:
“According to a report from the Center for Bipartisan Policy, the federal government will no longer be able to pay its bills in full and on time. Tax revenues to the US budget increased by only 2-3 percent instead of the expected 5-6 percent. Raising the national debt ceiling in the coming weeks will save the country from default, TASS reports.
Meanwhile, the US national debt hit a record $22 trillion. Since the beginning of February, it has increased by $90 billion. It is noteworthy that the American leader Donald Trump criticized his predecessors for the growth of the national debt and promised to eliminate it in two presidential terms.
In September 2021, Moskovsky Komsomolets published an article entitled “The US Treasury announced the approach of an ‘unthinkable’ default”, which stated:
“If the public debt ceiling on payment obligations is not raised, then everything could turn into a default, this is “unthinkable,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, according to Reuters . In this case, a recession may occur.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell added that steps would be taken to prevent a default that might be considered "disgusting." They represent control over payments on loans from the Ministry of Finance, where priority will be given to the principal, and only then to interest.
Powell also considers it necessary to introduce control of the US Treasury over operations on defaulted bonds, and borrowers can be provided with credit holidays. At the same time, the decision on the national debt ceiling must be made before the end of October, otherwise there will be a default.”
Two weeks later, Channel One reported :
“The US is on the verge of default, and there are no guarantees that it will be avoided. This was stated by President Joe Biden. Democrats and Republicans have been struggling to agree on a debt ceiling for three months now.
On October 1, a new fiscal year began, and the States overcame the limit allowed by Congress, which is almost $28.5 trillion. The amount is huge. To remove this restriction, Republican votes are needed. But they do not want to support this proposal. Earlier, the US Treasury warned that it could completely exhaust the treasury by October 18. The consequences of a default can be catastrophic. Enormous losses for the economy and a sharp increase in unemployment.”
In December, RIA Novosti published the article “Analysts warned of the threat of default in the United States”:
“The United States may be unable to meet its financial obligations as early as December 21 if Congress does not raise the national debt ceiling by that time,” analysts at the Bipartisan Political Center have warned.
American legislators earlier voted to extend government funding until February 18, preventing its imminent "shutdown", but so far left the issue of increasing borrowing unresolved.
The bipartisan political center has updated its outlook and now expects date X on the debt limit - when the US can no longer meet its obligations in full and on time - most likely between December 21, 2021 and January 28, 2022. in a Washington "think tank" report.
But all the gloomy forecasts did not come true, and there is a simple economic explanation for this. In 2020, Vladislav Leibov, a financial analyst at the Russian Finversia portal, wrote:
“The dollar will collapse soon! The public debt of the United States has exceeded 100% of the country's GDP! US bonds are unreliable and the country is about to default on them! The dollar will soon lose its status as the world's reserve currency!
I think everyone has heard or read similar forecasts lately. How true are these catchy headlines? Maybe it's time to run to change the lightweight dollars of pre-default America for full-fledged Russian rubles? <…>
The default of the United States under any scenario is out of the question at all. The secret is simple - the US borrows money only in its own currency. The former chairman of the Fed spoke about this Alan Greenspan: "The United States can pay off any debt because we can always print money to do it."
Of course, in reality, with such a one-time method of debt repayment, the problem of high inflation arises. But the thing is that no one in the States is going to pay off all his debt in this way. Moreover, it is very likely that the problem of the size of the debt of countries whose currency is the world one and is used in world calculations is not very relevant today. Let me remind you that the share of the US dollar in the foreign exchange reserves of the world's central banks is 62%, the dollar is involved in 88% of currency trading transactions, 40% of transactions in the world are in dollars. US debt is important to the global financial market. They are used by private companies and foreign countries as a way to securely store capital. Moreover, buyers of securities need these instruments almost as much as the United States that issues them.
If any of the countries holding US bonds suddenly wish to get rid of them completely, then it will have to either wait for their maturity or sell their bonds on the open market. A one-time sale of a large volume of securities will cause a collapse in their prices. And other debt holders will simply buy bonds at a lower price, significantly increasing the returns on their investment portfolios.”
True, in the relatively recent history of the United States, there was still a case of default - short-term and for an insignificant amount. Economist Sofya Glavina, head of the Digital Economy program at RUDN University, described this case as follows:
“On May 9, 1979, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Treasury was unable to pay its obligations totaling $122 million on time due to administrative confusion. Again, by all modern definitions, this is a default, even if it is technical in nature.
The Treasury actually paid the face value of the bills, but a class action lawsuit was filed against the United States in the Federal Court for the Central District of California by bondholders claiming payment of additional interest for delays. The government decided to avoid further publicity by satisfying the demands of disgruntled investors.
Ultimately, it was proposed that the "debt ceiling" be automatically raised to the required level as soon as the budget for the next financial year is approved - the so-called "Gephardt rule". This moment in history is the only time the US has officially defaulted so far.”
It should be noted that the amount of $122 million for the then American economy was almost negligible: US GDP in 1979 was $2.63 trillion.
A full-blown, rather than short-term, technical default in the US is theoretically possible only if Congress refuses to raise the legally established national debt limit. But this is absolutely unbelievable, since it does not benefit anyone. In 2013, when, in a situation of acute internal political struggle, Congress did not decide until the last moment to raise the debt ceiling, Bloomberg financial observer Yalman Onaran wrote :
“Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. a little over five years ago, knows what a global financial catastrophe is. The default of the US government, which will come in just a few weeks, if Congress does not raise the national debt ceiling, as it now threatens, will be an economic disaster, the likes of which the world has not yet seen.
The failure of the world's largest borrower to repay its debt, unprecedented in modern history, will disrupt stock markets from Brazil to Zurich, halt the $5 trillion lending mechanism for Treasury bond-reliant investors, blow up the cost of borrowing for billions of people and companies, devalue the dollar and plunge the US and the world economy into a recession that is likely to turn into a depression. Among the dozens of money managers, economists, bankers, traders and former government officials interviewed for this article, few see the US default as anything other than a financial apocalypse.
Of course, in 2013, Congress did not allow such a development of events and promptly raised the national debt limit; the same thing happened in subsequent years. The scenario described by Patrushev gives the impression of absolutely fantastic.