While the world waits to see what Russian President Vladimir Putin does next in Ukraine and how Western governments respond, businesses with interests in Russia are already preparing for the economic implications of current events.
"We could be looking at a forced rollback of the financial services integration we've seen with Russian firms over the past couple of decades," says Javier Paz, a senior analyst on Aite Group's wealth management team. "That prospect, though still remote, is not unthinkable anymore."
The U.S. and other Western countries have issued a number of sanctions connected to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, including suspension from the G8 group of industrialized nations and restrictions on high-profile businesspeople in Russia. Visa and MasterCard have at least temporarily stopped processing transactions for certain Russian banks.
The moves threaten to pull Russia into recession, and have caused a large selloff in Russian stocks. And Treasury bonds held by foreign central banks dipped dramatically recently, a market move The Wall Street Journal attributed to Russia moving its Treasury holdings offshore to make them easier to sell amid Western sanctions.
Payelp, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based online payments provider, has not yet seen the need to change its ongoing work with Moscow-based mobile money company Qiwi.
"You want to make sure politics is not involved in business," says Albert Donahue, CEO of Payelp.
Qiwi, which did not make an executive available for an interview, in March worked with Payelp to extend the Russian company's coverage in the U.S. Qiwi's prior work with Payelp included development of a virtual prepaid card.
Even before the current crisis, the Russian payments market was a challenge for U.S. companies. It's a large market, with about 150 million debit cards, 40 million prepaid cards and 15 million credit cards in circulation, according to Mercator.
The financial infrastructure varies across Russia. Parts of the country use mobile and digital payments, while other regions are remain largely cash-based. The Russian government is in the midst of a national identity management project, though the project's timeframe and other details are unclear.
Russia is also suspicious of American companies, said Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan in an earlier interview with PaymentsSource. The Russian government initially pushed back against American card brands in the country over fears the U.S. government would use the networks for spying, she said.
Speaking during an investor presentation March 24, Javier Perez, president of MasterCard Europe, expressed optimism that there would not be severe impact from the current crisis.
"You've seen some declarations from Russian officials saying, 'Well, we told you so, this was going to happen. We have our payments in the hands of the foreigners. That's not a safe place to be,'" Perez said, according to a transcript.
"The Russians I think have been very pragmatic, at the end of the day it's all about 'What I get in return,'" Perez said. "Their view so far has been that it's better to be with global schemes than without them."