The BRICS won’t kill the Dollar, but US policy will

This is the rarest case when the author easily and witty writes about complex financial problems. We present you an essay, presented by Matthew Piepenburg, a partner of “The Matterhorn Asset Management” (Switzerland), the co-author of Gold Matters, which offers an extensive examination of gold as an historically-confirmed wealth-preservation asset. Net conclusion: The real death of the USD will be domestic not foreign.

When it comes to the “bell tolling for fiat,” we can all hear its loud chimes, but that bell has been tolling since 1971 (or frankly 1968), when the US leadership decoupled the world reserve currency from its golden chaperone.

Like any teenager throwing a house party, the lack of a parental chaperone leads to lots of crazy events and lots of broken furniture.

The same is true of post-71 politicians and central bankers suddenly freed of a gold-backed chaperone and thus suddenly loaded with drunken power to mouse-click currencies and expand deficits.

And since then, all kinds of things have been breaking, from banks to bonds to currencies.

And now, with all the extreme hype (and, yes, some genuine reality) behind the headlines of a revolutionary gold-backed BRICS trade currency, many are making sensational claims that the World Reserve Currency (i.e., USD) is nearing its end and that fiat money from DC to Tokyo is effectively toast.

Before we start tossing red roses over the shallow grave of an admittedly grotesque US Greenback in general, or fiat fantasy money in general, let’s all take a deep breath.

That is, let’s re-think through this inevitable funeral with a bit more, well, realism, mathematics and even geopolitical common sense before we turn our backs on the USD, and this is coming from an author who has never thought highly of that Dollar, be it fiat, politicized and now weaponized.

So, let’s take a deep breath and engage open, informed and critical minds when it comes to debating many of the still open, un-known and critical issues surrounding the so-called “game changer” event when the BRICS+ nations convene this August in S. Africa.

As made clear literally from Day 1 of the Western sanctions against Putin, the West may have been aiming for Putin’s (or the Ruble’s) chest, but it then shot itself in the foot – needless to say, a 500-basis-point spike in the cost of the USA debt under Powell didn’t help. In fact, it did little good (or goodwill) for USD friends and enemies alike.

Adding insult to injury, DC coupled this strong-Dollar policy with a now weaponized-Dollar policy in which a nuclear and economic power like Russia had its FX reserves frozen and access to SDRs and SWIFT transactions blocked.

Like Napoleon at Moscow, this was going a step too far.

The net result was an obvious and immediate distrust of that once neutral world reserve currency,

Heck, even Obama warned against such weaponization of a reserve currency as recently as 2015!

Thus, and as I (and many others) warned from Day 1 of the sanctions, the distrust for the USD unleashed by the sanctions in early 2022 was “a genie that can never go back in the bottle.”

Or more simply stated, the trend toward de-dollarization was now going to come at greater speed and with greater force.

This force, of course, is now being seen, as well as debated, under the highly symbolic as well as substantive example of the BRICS+ nations seeking to usher in a gold-backed trade currency to move openly away from the USD, a move which some maintain will soon de-throne the USD as a world reserve currency and send its value immediately to the ocean floor.

For me, the trajectory of this de-dollarization trend is fairly obvious; but the speed and knowable magnitude of these changes are where I take a more realistic (i.e., less sensational) stance.

We know, for example, that Russian finance experts like Sergei Glasyev have real motives and sound reasons for planning a new (anti-Dollar) financial system which not only seeks a Eurasian Economic Union for cross boarder trade settlements backed by local currencies and commodities, but to which gold will likely be added as a “backer” to the same. Glasyev has also made headlines with plans regarding the Moscow World Standard as a far more fair-playing and fair-priced gold exchange alternative to the Western LBMA exchange.

If we take his gold backing plans seriously, we must also take seriously the plan to expand such gold-backed trade currency plans into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which would make the final tally of BRICS+ nations “going gold” as high as 41 country codes.

This could ostensibly mean greater than 50% of the world’s population and GDP would be trading in a gold-backed settlement currency outside of the USD, and that, well, matters to both the demand and strength of that Dollar…

China, moreover, has invested heavily in the Belt & Road Initiative (152 countries) as well as in massive infrastructure projects in Africa and South America, areas of the world that are all too familiar with America’s intentional (or at least cyclical) modus operandi of developing nations

China therefore has a vested interest in protecting its EM investments as well as EM export markets in a currency outside of a USD monopoly.

Meanwhile, as the US is making less and less friends with EM markets, Crown Princes, French Presidents and EU and UK bond markets, China has been busy brokering peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as building a literal bridge between the latter and Iraq while simultaneously making Yuan-trade deals with Argentina.

Tag on the fact that Brazil, China and Iran are trading outside the USD-denominated SWIFT payment system, and it seems fairly clear that much of the world is leaning toward what Zoltan Poszar described as a “commodity rather that debt-based trade settlement currency” for which Charles Gave (and the BRICS+ nations) see gold as an “essential element” to that global new trend.

Finally, with a strong Greenback making USD energy and other commodity prices painfully (if not fatally) too expensive for large swaths of the globe, it’s no secret to those same large swaths of the globe (including petrodollar nations…) that gold holds its value far better than a USD.

Given this fact, it’s easy to see why BRICS+ nations wish to settle trades in a gold-backed local currency in order to ease the pressure on commodity prices. This gives them the opportunity to buy time to pay down their other USD-denominated debt obligations.

In addition to the foregoing arguments, the fact that the BRICS+ nations are cloning IMF and World Bank swing loan and “contingency reserve asset” infrastructure programs under their own Asian Monetary Fund and New Development Bank, it becomes more than clear that a new BRICS+ world, trade currency and institutionalized infrastructure is as real as the trend away from a monopolar hegemony of the USD.

In short, and to repeat: There are many, many reasons to both see and trust the obvious and current trend/trajectory away from the USD as warned over a year ago, all of which, no matter what the slope and degree, will be good, very good for gold

First, we have to ask the very preliminary question as to whether the August BRICS summit will even involve an actual announcement of a new, gold-backed trading currency.

Meanwhile, India, a key BRICS member, has openly denied such a new trade currency as a fixed agenda item for this August.

Mechanically speaking, for example, who will indeed be the issuing entity of this new currency?

The new BRICS Bank?

What will be the actual gold coverage ratio? 10% 15% 20%?

Will BRICS+ member nations/central banks need to deposit their physical gold in a central depository, or will they enjoy (most likely) the flexibility of pledging their domestically-held gold as an accounting-only-unit?

Cohesion Among the Distrusting?

As important, just how much trust and cohesion is there among the BRICS+ nations?

Sure, this collection of nations may trust gold more than they trust each other or the US (which is why such a gold-backed trade currency may work, as it can’t be “inflated away”), but if a BRICS member country wishes to redeem its gold from say, Russia, years down the road, can it realistically assume it will happen?..

We know, for example, that the collective BRICS+ gold reserve (as of Q1 2023) is just over 5452 tones, valued today at approximately $350B. Enough, yes to stake a new currency.

But measured against a net global amount of $13T in total physical gold, are the BRICS+ gold reserves enough to make a sizable dent (even at a partial coverage ratio) to tilt the world away from the USD overnight, when the USA, at least officially, has much, much more gold than the BRICS+?

That said, we can’t deny that the actual gold stores in places like Russia and China are far, far higher than officially reported by the World Gold Council.

Additionally, the historically unprecedented rate of central bank gold stacking in 2022-23 seems to suggest that the enemies of the USD are indeed “loading their guns” for a reason.

In other words, even if all the BRICS+ plans for a gold-backed trading currency go flawlessly, the time gap between the accepted rise of such a settlement currency and the open fall of the USD is likely to be long, wide and unknown enough to see the USD actually get stronger rather than weaker before we experience any final fall in the USD as a global reserve currency.

So, no, I don’t think that the USD will fall entirely from grace or even supremacy in August of 2023, even if the trend away from its prior hegemony is becoming increasingly undeniable.

It will take more than sensational BRICS headlines to make such a rapid change, but yes, and as the Sam Cooke song says, “change is gonna come.”

My only point is that for now, and for all the reasons cited above, the trajectory and speed of those changes are likely not as sensational as the trajectory and speed of the current headlines.

Furthermore, and despite all the hype as well as substance behind the BRICS headlines, I see the evolution of such a gold-backed trade currency as a reaction to, rather than attack upon, the USD, whose real and ultimate threat comes from within, rather than outside, its borders.

The world is losing trust in the USD because US policy makers killed it from within. Ever since Nixon (in 1971) took the gold chaperone away, politicians and central bankers have been deficit spending like drunken high school seniors in a room filled with beer but absent of parental consent.

The entire world has long known what many Americans are finally seeing from inside their own walls, namely: The US will never, ever be able to put its fiscal house in order.

Uncle Sam is simply too far in debt and there’s simply no way out as it approaches a wall of open and obvious fiscal dominance in which fighting inflation will only (and again, ironically) cause more inflation.

Or stated simply, Uncle Sam can’t afford his own ever-increasing and entirely unpayable deficit spending habits without having to resort to trillions and trillions of more mouse-clicked Dollars to keep yields in check and IOUs from defaulting.

And that, far more than a BRICS new currency, is what will put the final rose on a fiat system (and Dollar) that is already openly but slowly dying — first slowly, then all at once.

But I don’t think that day will be August 22, Matthew Piepenburg concludes.