Putin’s Unlikely Ally in His Standoff With the West: His Central Banker

Elvira Nabiullina has earned an unusual degree of freedom to buttress an economy buffeted by sanctions

After Russia’s central-bank chief, Elvira Nabiullina, moved to shut down a large lender last year for allegedly falsifying accounts, the nation’s top prosecutor’s office issued an order to leave the bank alone.

She closed it anyway.

In her five years in office, Ms. Nabiullina has closed hundreds of weak banks, stymied the exodus of Russian wealth abroad and transformed monetary policy to bring inflation to record lows. That has earned her an unusual amount of freedom to make tough decisions, even if that means treading on powerful interests.

.. As President Vladimir Putin bids to return Russia to great-power status, challenging the U.S. and Europe from Syria to Ukraine, it’s her job to shore up the economy against volatile oil markets and sanctions. Russia’s ability to continue its quest rests in large part on whether Ms. Nabiullina can keep the financial system stable.

Ms. Nabiullina has earned public praise from

  • Mr. Putin, who rarely commends subordinates, as well as from abroad. Last year at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin told her that “under your leadership, the central bank has done a great deal to stabilize the economic situation.” Managers at big investment funds, from
  • Pacific Investment Management Co. to Pictet Asset Management, call Ms. Nabiullina one of the world’s most skilled central bankers.
  • Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, lauded her in May for setting “standards of quality for macroeconomic policy.”

.. In 2006, the central-bank official responsible for revamping the system, Andrey Kozlov, was shot dead in his car. Russian financier Alexey Frankel, whose banking license Mr. Kozlov had revoked earlier that year, was later convicted of organizing the killing.

.. She has earned a reputation for bookishness, personal honesty and fixation on detail

.. Industry veterans said that before Ms. Nabiullina took over, banking licenses were mostly used as mechanisms to funnel money abroad and process insider deals.

.. “We used to open a newspaper in the morning and look at the banking deals and said—that’s capital flight, and that’s asset stripping,” said Sergey Khotimskiy, co-founder of one of Russia’s largest private banks, Sovcombank. “The dodgy enrichment schemes were obvious to everyone.”
.. When she took over the institution, banks and companies were moving $5 billion out of the country every month, and inflation topped 7%.She shut down 70 banks in her first year.

.. Ms. Nabiullina stopped a longstanding policy of spending billions of dollars from the country’s reserves to try to prop up the ruble. In December 2014, with the ruble continuing to fall, the central bank nearly doubled its key lending rate to 17% at an emergency late-night meeting.

.. The rate increase restored calm to markets but strangled the country’s consumer-fueled growth. The country’s emerging middle class, which had become used to foreign vacations and European cars, is still feeling the effects of the ruble’s collapse.
..  Since she took office, she has halved the number of Russian banks, shutting down about 440 lenders. She has reduced capital outflows by about 50% to $2.5 billion a month.
.. Many of the banks she closed had been considered untouchable, analysts said. Some, such as Promsviazbank, counted lawmakers and state-company executives among its shareholders and held money for national oil companies and the Orthodox Church.
.. Others, like Bank Sovetskiy, had served political objectives, providing banking services in Crimea, the Ukrainian region the Kremlin annexed in 2014.

.. When the central bank took over Yugra last June following repeated warnings, it said it found a $600 million deficit in its balance sheet masked with bad loans. Just hours before the bankrupt bank’s license was due to expire, the prosecutor’s office ordered a halt to the closure, calling the bank “a financially stable credit organization.” Ms. Nabiullina rejected the order.

.. “It was a test of will, and she won,” said banking analyst Mr. Lukashuk.
.. In January, inflation hit a record low for the post-Soviet period of 2.2%, a result of Ms. Nabiullina’s decision to keep interest rates high after the Crimea sanctions. Some tycoons have urged a faster reduction.
.. Still, she has struggled to regulate Russia’s lesser, underperforming state-owned banks, whose executives often treat them as fiefs, analysts said. These banks are kept afloat by constant injections of state funds, which the executives have funneled into unrelated assets ranging from supermarkets to railroad cars.
.. Almost a trillion rubles of public capital, about $16 billion at today’s rate, went to just three state-owned banks—
  1. VTB,
  2. Gazprombank and
  3. Rosselkhozbank—

in the first four years of Ms. Nabiullina’s central-bank term, according to Fitch Ratings. All are still saddled with bad debts or illiquid assets.

.. Her modest economic forecasts have consistently lagged behind Mr. Putin’s goals, which she said can only be achieved through deep, unpopular changes to the system.

Even if the price of oil rose to $100, from around $65 today, she said, “it’s very unlikely that our economy can grow above 1.5% to 2%” a year.

The 3 Most Powerful Ways To Change People Who Don’t Want To Change

Here are the three most important pitfalls and success factors we’ve discovered. Our research shows that these three elements can make you and your loved ones ten times more likely to succeed.

Mistake #1: We attack people with information.

We assume that, if the person only knew what we knew, they’d change. The problem is, often they already know what we know, plus more.

.. Solution: People need to examine their own narrative.

When you’re trying to influence people who need motivation, but not information, don’t offer more information.  Instead, work to create a safe environment where they can explore motivations they already have. People need to re-examine their narrative, especially any self-defeating or clever stories they are telling themselves to justify the status quo.

  1. “What is it that makes you even consider changing?”
  2. “If things worked out exactly the way you want, what would be different?
  3. “What are the pluses and minuses of changing or not changing?”
  4. “If this change were easy, would you want to make it? What makes it hard?”

Mistake #2: We fail to see why we’re stuck.

Getting someone to make a commitment to change is not the same as getting them to actually change.  The problem is that people overestimate the power of their own willpower. They fail to see the risks in front of them. So, they put their heart and soul into an effort, but it’s not enough. They are tripped up by obstacles they never anticipated.

We need to recognize the hidden influences around us, the influences that are keeping us stuck. Once we see them, we can deal with them. We group influences into six sources: three that motivate and three that enable.

  1. Personal Motivation ..
  2. Social Motivation .. 
  3. Structural Motivation ..
  4. Personal Ability ..
  5. Social Ability ..
  6. Structural Ability ..

Most stubborn problems persist because of unseen or overlooked influences that are keeping us stuck. Once we see them, we can change them. However, if we don’t change them, we’ll remain stuck.

.. Another mistake is to have favorite solutions, and to use them in isolation. For example, we assume carrots and sticks will solve every problem, or that training or technology will. As a result, we create one-sided solutions that address only a few of the obstacles that are keeping us stuck.

Richard Rohr Meditation: The Root of Violence

The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack.

.. When you can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here you can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots before there is even a basis for fear or greed—the things that usually cause us to be angry, suspicious, and violent.

.. To be clear, it is inconceivable that a true believer would be racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, or bigoted toward any group or individual, especially toward the poor, which seems to be an acceptable American prejudice. In order to end the cycle of violence, our fight must flow from our authentic identity as Love.

..  I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation thirty years ago was to give activists some grounding in spirituality so they could continue working for social change, but from a stance much different than vengeance, ideology, or willpower pressing against willpower.

Most activists I knew loved Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings on nonviolence. But it became clear to me that many of them had only an intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery. I often saw people on the Left playing the victim and creating victims of others who were not like them. The ego was still in charge. It was still a power game, not the science of love that Jesus taught us.

..  It takes a lifetime, I think. This kind of action, rooted in one’s True Self, comes from a deeper knowing of what is real, good, true, and beautiful, beyond labels and dualistic judgments of right or wrong. From this place, our energy is positive and has the most potential to create change for the good. This stance is precisely what we mean by “being in prayer.” We must pray “unceasingly” to maintain this posture.

.. Wait in prayer, but don’t wait for absolutely perfect motivation or we will never act. Radical union with God and neighbor is our starting place, not private perfection. Contemplation offers a way to make our action sustainable and lasting over the long haul, without being overly defended or cynical.