President Vladimir Putin needs two years to fix Russia’s current economic mess. At least that is what he gave himself at his December end-of-year news conference.
In Russia, August is commonly believed to be the month of bad surprises, when planes fall out of the sky and economic crises begin. But from the point of the view of the Kremlin, the last days of December are preferable for shock announcements. On Christmas Day 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the first and last president of the Soviet Union; eight years later, on New Year’s Eve, Boris Yeltsin handed over the Russian presidency to an unknown former secret police chief named Vladimir Putin.
MOSCOW – What a difference a plunging ruble makes. A few short days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a strategic genius, outplaying Western leaders everywhere – in the Middle East, in China, and especially in Ukraine. Today, he’s the destroyer of his country and his political life could be in jeopardy.
The West has been unable to develop a coherent strategic policy toward Russia. There is little agreement on what Russia is and how to deal with it, too much speculation about what President Vladimir Putin will or will not do.
The year ahead could see the outbreak of the third Chechen war, which, in turn, could be the death knell of the Russian Federation in its current borders.
The “day of silence” observed this week by the Ukrainian army and its pro-Russian rebel opponents was an event of enormous economic importance for global economics as well as geopolitics.
The 40 percent plunge in oil prices since July, when Brent crude peaked at $115 a barrel, is almost certainly good news for the world economy; but it is surely a crippling blow for oil producers. Oil prices below $70 certainly spell trouble for U.S. and Canadian shale and tar-sand producers and also for oil-exporting countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia that depend on inflated oil revenues to finance government spending or pay foreign debts. On the other hand, the implications of lower oil prices for the biggest U.S. and European oil companies are more ambiguous and could even be positive.
Vladimir Putin lives in a scary world, where enemies plot tirelessly to undermine, trick, and destroy Russia. Containment wasn’t just a Cold War policy but a practice of Russia’s rivals for centuries. Even without a conflict in Ukraine, the United States and European Union would have come up with another pretext for imposing economic sanctions; they were an inevitable response to a rising Russia.