A significant debate is underway in Russia since imposition of western financial sanctions on Russian banks and corporations in 2014. It’s about a proposal presented by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. The proposal, which resembles Islamic interest-free banking models in many respects, was first unveiled in December 2014 at the depth of the Ruble crisis and oil price free-fall. This August the idea received a huge boost from the endorsement of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It could change history for the better depending on what is done and where it further leads.
Some 20 years ago during the Yeltsin era, within the chaos of Russian hyperinflation and IMF “shock therapy,” the Russian Orthodox Church introduced a similar proposal for interest-free banking as an alternative. During that time a gaggle of liberal pro-free-market Russian economists around Yeltsin, such as Yegor Gaider, prevailed. They instead opened Russia’s state-owned assets to literal plunder by western banks, hedge funds and corporations.
In my first visit to Russia in May 1994 to give a talk at a Russian economic institute on IMF shock therapy, I saw first-hand the lawless mafia, russkaya mafiya, speeding through the near-empty Tverskaya Street near Red Square in new state-of-the-art Mercedes 600 limos without license plates. It was a devastating time in Russia and Washington and the technocrats at the IMF knew exactly what they were doing to foster the chaos.
US sanctions focus attention
By 2014 much has changed in Russia. Most significantly, the infatuation with everything American of two decades ago has understandably vanished. The US Treasury financial sanctions were launched in stages in 1914 against specific individuals around President Putin, specific banks and corporations dependent on foreign credit. They had the effect of forcing a critical rethinking among Russian intellectuals, government officials and in the Kremlin itself.
The Washington attacks, legally-speaking acts of warfare against a sovereign nation, were initiated by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the only government finance agency in the world with its own in-house intelligence agency. The Office was created under the pretext of going after and freezing the assets and bank accounts of drug cartels and terrorists, something it seems strangely inept at if we judge from their record regarding groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda in Iraq. It seems to be far better going after “undesireable” countries like Iran and Russia. It has offices around the world, including in Islamabad and Abu Dhabi.
Those US Treasury financial warfare sanctions and the prospect of much worse to come have sparked a deep debate within Russia on how to defend the nation from more attacks. Vulnerability to western sanctions in their banking system has led Russia, like China, to develop an internal Russian version of SWIFT interbank payments. Now the very nature of money and its control is at the heart of the debate.
Unorthodox Orthodox Proposal
In January 2015, in the depth of the financial crisis, with a Ruble at half what it had been months earlier and oil prices in a free-fall as a result of the September 2014 John Kerry-King Abdullah agreement, the Moscow Patriarchate reissued its idea.
Dmitri Lubomudrov, the Orthodox Church’s legal adviser told the media at that time, “We realized we couldn’t stay dependent on the Western financial system, but must develop our own. As with the Islamic system, the Orthodox one will be based not just on legislation, but on Orthodox morality as well, and will be an invitation to businessmen seeking security at a time of crisis.” Among its features would be interest-free credit issuance and prohibition of investment in gambling casinos or such activities going against Church moral values.
Then in early August this year the Orthodox plan for interest-free money creation gained a major added support. Sergei Katyrin, head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, after meeting with Vsevolod Chaplin, the senior Orthodox cleric overseeing the project, announced, “The Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the creation of the Orthodox Financial System… and is ready to provide its platform for detailed and professional discussion of these questions together with the relevant committees of the chamber.” The proposal is aimed at reducing Russia’s reliance on the Western banking system, an essential national economic security requirement....MORE
Monday, November 30, 2015
Russia Debates Unorthodox Orthodox Financial Alternative
From New Eastern Outlook