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Vladimir Putin is frantically stockpiling gold - why?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is buying gold as fast as he can. Russia has more than doubled its gold reserves in the past five years, according to the World Gold Council. Putin has reportedly been buying about half a billion dollars' worth of the precious metal every month. What can this mean?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Financial gurus George Soros and John Paulson have likewise stepped up their purchases of gold recently, but none had aroused so much interest as Putin. 

The Russian strongman is notorious for his global power politics. A favorite anecdote is how the wily Putin was able to steal a Super Bowl ring from Bob Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, when they met in Russia some years ago.

There are two ways to look at gold in the broad scope of the 21st Century global economy. It's seen by many as a foolproof investment, which by contemporary standards makes little sense. Gold generates no cash flow and serves no practical purpose. Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett has pointed out that the world digs itself out of one hole in the ground only to stick it in another.

Gold has never really been "real" money. "Money is just an accounting device, a way of keeping track of how much each of us produces and consumes," columnist Brett Arends with Market Watch writes. "Gold is a shiny and somewhat tacky looking metal that is malleable, durable and heavy."

However, Arends points out, gold is the most liquid reserve in times of turmoil -- or worse.

The preeminent story of the times, Arends warns, is the fact that the sun has begun to set on the United States status as the sole superpower. 

"As was first reported here in April of last year, according to International Monetary Fund calculations, the U.S. is on track to lose its status as the world's biggest economy - when measured in real, purchasing-power terms - to China by 2017.

"As investment bank bonus pools continue to shrink, banks are expected to continue to lay off staff," Arends writes.

"We will soon be the first people in two hundred years to live in a world not dominated by either Pax Americana or Pax Britannica. This sort of changing of the guard has never been peaceful. The declines of the Spanish, French and British empires were all accompanied by conflict. The decline of British hegemony was a leading cause of the First and Second World Wars . What will happen as the U.S. loses its pre-eminence?"

Arends comes short of being a total doomsayer. "Maybe this will turn out better than similar episodes in the past. Maybe the Chinese will embrace an open society and the rule of law. If you believe that, there is probably no reason to hold any gold."

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