Wednesday, December 17, 2014

3 Things That Could Cheer Up Putin Amid the Ruble’s Crash

Stephen Sestanovich, a professor at Columbia University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says:
1. These panics can pass quickly.  Six years ago, with the world in a deep economic crisis, Moscow policymakers foresaw years of trouble. But the Russian economy rebounded smartly.  Even the great financial crash of 1998 led to renewed growth sooner than anyone had expected. (Mr. Putin became prime minister and then president in 1999, and the upturn made his career.)  So a courtier might simply say: Hang in there, boss.

2. There is no serious opposition. ... Moscow’s liberal technocrat insiders...have no political base in Russia.  Yes, a great surge of discontent with Mr. Putin—from the Westernized proto-middle class—appeared in 2011-12.  It then almost totally disappeared.  Russian media, parliament, business elites—these are going to challenge the Kremlin?  Please.

3. The West is not nearly as united as it seems.  Sanctions have made Russia’s economic trouble more acute than it would have been on its own. But if some Americans want to increase the pressure, Europeans do not.  Next spring, the European Union’s sanctions have to be renewed, and some of Mr. Putin’s tormentors are wobbly.  (Amazingly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she hoped the South Stream pipeline project might be revived.)

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