The war in Ukraine and subsequent international sanctions have triggered a bank run in Russia. But this is no ordinary run—it may become a run on the central bank itself, one that holds important lessons for introducing central bank digital currencies.
Reports show Russians lining up at ATMs to withdraw their cash. For now, the run is largely driven by fears of withdrawal limits and the anticipation that credit cards and electronic means of payments will cease to function. If that happens, cash at hand is the better alternative. For that scenario, central banks know what to do: provide solvent banks with plenty of liquidity against good collateral, as Walter Bagehot recommended.
But will that be all? As Western countries freeze the Russian central bank’s reserves and limit the ability of banks to transact internationally, the exchange rate of the ruble has collapsed, falling by more than 40 percent. Prices for ordinary goods may begin to rise, perhaps dramatically so. If that happens, then rubles would no longer be a good store of value. Russians may seek to convert them into foreign currency, but that’s hard to do with the current sanctions. Consequently, they may start to hoard goods instead, dumping their cash as they go along. The situation would no longer be a run on specific goods, but a run away from fiat money and toward goods—a run, in other words, on the central bank.
Author(s): Linda Schilling, Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Harald Uhlig
Publication Date: 7 Mar 2022
Publication Site: City Journal