The US dollar is used in the majority of international trade, and its status as the global reserve currency gives the United States an “exorbitant privilege” that underpins its geopolitical and economic dominance. Yet opposition to Washington’s hegemony is growing around the world. Institutions of Eurasian integration are proposing their own currencies and payment systems. Latin America, too, has ambitious plans to end its dependence on the US dollar. Prominent economist Andrés Arauz, a leftist leader who came close to winning Ecuador’s 2021 presidential elections, published a blueprint for a “new regional financial architecture” to unite Latin America, challenging the hegemony of the dollar and Washington-dominated institutions like the International Monetary Fund.
Here’s your ‘reserve currency’ thought for the day: Every US dollar is a check written on an account that is overdrawn by 30 trillion dollars. It’s true. The “full faith and credit” of the US Treasury is largely a myth held together by an institutional framework that rests on a foundation of pure sand. In fact, the USD is not worth the paper it is printed on; it is an IOU flailing in an ocean of red ink. The only thing keeping the USD from vanishing into the ether, is the trust of credulous people who continue to accept it as legal tender. But why do people remain confident in the dollar when its flaws are known to all? After all, America’s $30 trillion National Debt is hardly a secret, nor is the additional $9 trillion that’s piled up on the Fed’s balance sheet.
Brazil’s left-wing leader Lula da Silva has proposed creating a pan-Latin American currency, in order to “be freed of the dollar.” A founder of Brazil’s Workers’ Party, Lula served as president for two terms, from 2003 to 2011. He is now the leading candidate as Brazil’s October 2022 presidential elections approach. If he returns to the presidency, “We are going to create a currency in Latin America, because we can’t keep depending on the dollar,” Lula said in a speech at a rally on May 2. He revealed that the currency would be called the Sur, which means “South” in Spanish. Lula explained that countries in Latin America could still keep their sovereign domestic currency, but they could use the Sur to do bilateral trade with each other, instead of having to exchange for US dollars.
The first challenge by a major power to what became known as the petrodollar has come in 2022. In the month after the Ukraine conflict began, the U.S. and its European allies imposed heavy financial sanctions on Russia in response to the illegal military invasion. The Western measures included freezing nearly half of the Russian central bank’s 640 billion U.S. dollars in financial reserves, expelling several of Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT global payment system, imposing export controls aimed at limiting Russia’s access to advanced technologies, closing down their airspace and ports to Russian planes and ships, and instituting personal sanctions against senior Russian officials and high-profile tycoons.
The US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) has acknowledged that the hegemony of the dollar is in noticeable decline. At the same time, the Chinese currency, the yuan or renminbi, is slowly growing in influence, along with other currencies, according to the IMF. In 2000, roughly 70% of global foreign exchange reserves were held in US dollars. As of 2021, that figure had fallen to just under 60%. Meanwhile, the IMF noted that there is a rise in “nontraditional currencies” from smaller countries being held in international reserves. The United States has veto power over IMF decisions, and the institution is notorious for acting as an instrument of US political influence.
Dollar hegemony seems to be the position that has just ended as of this week very abruptly. Dollar hegemony was when America's war in Vietnam and the military spending of the 1960s and 70s drove the United States off gold. The entire US balance of payments deficit was military spending, and it began to run down the gold supply. So, in 1971, President Nixon took the dollar off gold. Well, everybody thought America has been controlling the world economy since World War I by having most of the gold and by being the creditor to the world. And they thought what is going to happen now that the United States is running a deficit, instead of being a creditor. Well, what happened was that, as I've described in Super Imperialism, when the United States went off gold, foreign central banks didn't have anything to buy with their dollars that were flowing into their countries – again, mainly from the US military deficit but also from the investment takeovers.
On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, the United States announced that it would freeze Russia's access to its gold. Russia has the fifth highest amount of gold in the world. Economist Michael Hudson explains that this action, which follows the US seizing Venezuela and Afghanistan's gold and assets, has effectively ended dollar hegemony, which has been in decline in recent years, and the free ride that the US has enjoyed abroad. Hudson states that we are now in uncharted territory as nothing like this has occurred in modern history. Sanctions on Russia are driving a shortage of fertilizer, which will lower food production and bring famine. Hudson predicts greater inflation, particularly for food and fuel, and shortages, which are all good for Wall Street profits, and more businesses being forced to close.
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported Saudi Arabia was in "active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan". Much of the world is looking to bolster oil reserves amid what the International Energy Agency warned on Wednesday could be "the biggest supply crisis in decades", as evidence mounts that US and EU efforts to keep Russian gas out of Western vehicles and residences may ultimately backfire. Sasse, who demanded on Fox that the US "rearm" the Ukrainian regime "constantly", and insisted that "defeating Vladimir Putin" is the only way to stop China from being able to "displace the dollar", is just one high-ranking American politician expressing alarm over the continuing de-dollarisation process encouraged by the wide-ranging sanctions on Russia.
In support of the white supremacist Ukrainian puppet government, many US and European companies have been withdrawing from doing business in Russia. The supposed purpose of such sanctions is, of course, to strangle a country’s economy and its people into submission to the will of imperialists. And yes, sanctions kill, particularly in countries that do not have access to certain goods, necessary materials and complex technological services and need to import them. But there is also another aspect of sanctions, and that is the looting via the “confiscation” of assets belonging to the sanctioned country. Theft and piracy by any other name…The consequences are dramatic, especially for the people, and are thus criminal and illegal acts perpetrated by imperialist powers.
The basic assumption of economic and diplomatic forecasting is that every country will act in its own self-interest. Such reasoning is of no help in today’s world. Observers across the political spectrum are using phrases like “shooting themselves in their own foot” to describe U.S. diplomatic confrontation with Russia and allies alike. But nobody thought that The American Empire would self-destruct this fast. For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia. America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.
Amid a worsening stand-off between East and West, Russia and China are increasingly contemplating using their own currencies in mutual settlements and finding ways to work together to counter sanctions, Moscow’s envoy in Beijing has disclosed. Speaking as part of an appearance on YouTube channel Soloviev Live on Wednesday, Andrey Denisov weighed in on the impact of embargoes imposed by Western nations on ties between the two nations. “The fact that these sanctions have a negative impact on some aspects of our relations is indeed true,” he said, pointing at the impact on financial settlements. “If penalties are imposed on one of our banks, it is quite difficult for Chinese recipients of our products to pay us, although they have the money and the desire to do so.”
Fifty ago, I wrote Super Imperialism about basically how America dominates the world financially and gets the free ride. I wrote it right after America went off gold in 1971, when the Vietnam War, which was responsible for the entire balance of payments deficit, forced the country to go off gold. And everybody at that time worried the dollar was going to go down. There’d be hyperinflation. And what happened was something entirely different. Once there was no gold, America strong-armed its allies to invest in U.S. Treasury bonds because their central banks don’t buy companies. They don’t buy raw materials. All they could buy is other central bank’s treasury bonds. So, all of a sudden, the only thing that other people could buy with all the dollars coming in were U.S. Treasury securities.