Russia has a $140 billion stockpile of gold, but no one wants to buy it

  • The fifth-largest stockpile of gold in the world belongs to Russia, valued at nearly $140 billion.
  • As with oil, sanctions are making it very difficult for Russia to trade the precious commodity.
  • Demand for gold is still high within the country as the ruble has crashed to record lows.

Like the price of crude oil, gold prices have been on a wild ride since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

And like oil, Russia holds some of the world’s largest reserves of gold — some 2,300 tons of it, worth nearly $140 billion.

The huge reserves of the precious metal were built up over the past decade and a half, and were intended to be a sort of economic insurance policy for the country.

But as with oil, sanctions are making it incredibly difficult for Russia to actually realize the value of its holdings.

“This is why they bought their gold, it was for a situation just like this,” Cork University Business School lecturer Fergal O’Connor told Bloomberg. “But if no one will trade it with you, it doesn’t matter.”

Last week, London’s gold marketplace — the most important center in the world for bullion — banned all bars from Russian refineries, effectively shutting it out of the global trade.

The US Senate followed that move with a new bill that would prohibit US citizens from making any transaction that involves Russian gold.

“Russia’s massive gold supply is one of the few remaining assets that Putin can use to keep his country’s economy from falling even further,” Maine Sen. Angus King said in a statement. “By sanctioning these reserves, we will further isolate Russia from the world’s economy and increase the difficulty of Putin’s increasingly-costly military campaign.”

Even without international buyers, it appears domestic demand for gold is high, according to a statement from the central bank of Russia.

On Tuesday, the bank said it will suspend its regular purchases of gold from lending institutions so as not to compete with household demand at a time when people are racing to exchange crashing rubles for gold bars.

If the currency continues to fall relative to the US dollar, Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar told Bloomberg that the country could use the stockpile to effectively revert to a gold-standard, using it as an “anchor” by selling it at a fixed price in rubles.