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Where is Russia getting its money from?

Despite extensive sanctions imposed by Western countries, Russia has managed to keep its economy afloat following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. With its foreign currency reserves frozen and several Russian banks blocked from the SWIFT international payments system, Russia has had to get creative to maintain economic stability. Here we examine the key sources of revenue that Russia is utilizing to fund government operations and sustain its domestic economy.

Oil and Gas Exports

Russia’s vast oil and gas reserves have provided a crucial lifeline during the sanctions period. Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer after the United States and Saudi Arabia, producing around 10 million barrels per day. It is also the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. In 2021, Russia earned around $240 billion from oil and gas sales, accounting for 45% of its federal budget revenues. Despite Western bans on Russian oil and gas imports, demand from China, India and other countries has enabled exports to continue generating huge revenues for the Kremlin.

The European Union was historically Russia’s largest customer for natural gas, importing around 40% of its supply from Russia prior to the Ukraine invasion. While the EU has pledged to reduce its reliance on Russian energy, its transition to alternative suppliers will take time. In the interim, Russia is still earning approximately $850 million per day from gas sales to Europe despite reduced volumes. India and China have ramped up purchases of discounted Russian oil, helping sustain global demand despite Western boycotts.

With the world currently facing an energy crisis and tight supplies, Russia still holds leverage as a major oil and gas exporter. Despite shipping disruptions and discounted prices, revenues from fossil fuel exports will remain Russia’s primary economic lifeline in the near term.

Domestic Economic Management

While Russia’s energy sector has provided crucial foreign revenues, prudent domestic economic management has also helped weather the impacts of sanctions. Some key measures taken by the Russian government include:

  • Allowing the ruble to float freely, which caused it to fall initially before recovering strongly due to capital controls and Russia’s trade surplus.
  • Increasing interest rates to 20% to counter inflation and prop up the ruble.
  • Restrictions on withdrawing foreign currency from Russian banks and spending overseas.
  • Reducing government spending in some non-essential areas.
  • Providing liquidity to banks and businesses affected by sanctions.
  • Switching payments for natural gas exports to rubles rather than dollars/euros.

These measures have enabled Russia to maintain financial stability despite being cut off from much of the global financial system. Inflation has remained high at around 13%, but this has been manageable compared to some previous emerging markets currency crises. The ruble has now recovered beyond pre-invasion levels, aided by capital controls limiting its convertibility. While the Russian economy is headed for a sharp contraction in 2022, prudent macroeconomic policies have prevented a total collapse thus far.

Foreign Currency Reserves

Despite Western freezes on around half of Russia’s $640 billion in foreign exchange reserves, the Central Bank of Russia retains access to a sizable war chest of international currency. This includes an estimated $140 billion in gold reserves and $132 billion in Chinese yuan reserves which were not restricted by sanctions.

These reserves have enabled Russia to prop up the ruble’s value, provide liquidity to banks, and fund budget deficits amid lower tax revenues. While the sanctions have immobilized around $300 billion in Russia’s reserves, its remaining international currency holdings still provide an important buffer to maintain economic stability.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Russia has two sovereign wealth funds which held over $186 billion in combined assets as of March 2022. These funds include:

  • The National Wealth Fund ($165 billion) – derived from oil and gas revenues.
  • The Russian Direct Investment Fund ($21 billion) – manages investments in Russia and abroad.

By drawing on these substantial savings, the Russian government has been able to inject capital into domestic banks and companies struggling under sanctions pressures. Sovereign wealth funds also provided financing for the expanded fiscal stimulus that Russia has undertaken since February to support the economy.

While the National Wealth Fund is slated to fall below its target minimum size due to heavy spending this year, it still provides an important fiscal buffer at a challenging time.

Import Substitution

With Western sanctions restricting access to various technology, machinery, consumer goods and financial services, Russia has enacted import substitution policies to source more goods domestically or from friendly countries like China and Turkey.

Some import substitution measures have included:

  • Sourcing machines, tools, and vital components from China and other non-Western suppliers.
  • Boosting domestic manufacturing capabilities, e.g. passenger cars and agricultural equipment.
  • Transitioning IT systems of government and companies away from Western software/hardware.
  • Encouraging greater domestic food production as imports fall.
  • Pivoting energy export routes away from Europe towards Asia.

By reducing reliance on Western imports, Russia aims to circumvent trade and financial restrictions. This policy alignment with China and other Eurasian economies also provides longer-term resilience against potential future sanctions.

Tax Increases

With sanctions cutting off access to international borrowing, Russia has turned heavily towards domestic sources to finance the expanded fiscal support required by its economy. Major tax increases since February 2022 include:

  • Higher personal income tax rate of 15% on interest and dividend income.
  • Increased corporate profit tax rate from 20% to 22%.
  • Higher taxes on metals and mining companies.
  • Increased taxes on luxury goods like cars, planes, helicopters.

The Russian government has also stripped back various tax concessions and brought forward tax collections to boost revenues. While tax hikes could dampen business investment and household consumption, they have provided vital budget funding at a challenging time.

assistance. Try summarizing the key points into a table:

Revenue Source Details
Oil and Gas Exports Russia is the world’s largest oil and gas exporter. Exports continue generating huge revenues despite sanctions as demand persists from China, India and others.
Domestic Economic Management Prudent macroeconomic policies like letting the ruble float, increasing interest rates, providing bank liquidity have maintained economic stability.
Foreign Currency Reserves Russia retains access to sizable reserves outside the reach of Western sanctions, providing an economic buffer.
Sovereign Wealth Funds Russia’s substantial savings in its National Wealth Fund and Russian Direct Investment Fund are being used to support banks, companies and budget needs.
Import Substitution Russia is reducing reliance on Western imports and pivoting supply chains towards China and other friendly nations.
Tax Increases Higher taxes on income, profits, luxury goods and minerals have boosted government revenue amidst sanctions.


Facing a markedly changed economic reality since February 2022, Russia has proven adept at utilizing various tools to adapt. With prudent policymaking and huge fossil fuel revenues, it has avoided financial meltdown despite extensive sanctions. However, the long-term impacts of its increasing isolation from Western economies remain to be seen. While Russia can muddle through in the short-term, it faces slower growth and technological stagnation over the longer term without access to Western capital, expertise and innovation. Its economy is also vulnerable to further disruptions from sanctions, especially if energy exports are restricted further. Nonetheless, Russia still retains substantial economic resources to continue funding its domestic needs and military objectives in the near future.