Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Moscow Benighted

Back from a visit to Moscow, Nixon Center president and "National Interest" publisher Dimitri Simes writes that while boutiques and restaurants seem as crowded as ever, all is not well outside the elite cocoon as falling oil prices and global malaise have their anticipated impact on the Russian economy:
[T]raveling by car through the Russian capital’s nightmarish traffic quickly reveals signs of trouble. The vast majority of the numerous construction sites appear frozen, with cranes standing idly and no crews in sight; pages of Russian papers are filled with obligatory bankruptcy announcements; and at the Alexander House, one of Moscow’s most prominent business addresses, there is no normal line in the cafeteria. Many employees of energy and consulting firms in the building have been put on unpaid leaves of undefined lengths. Nonprofits have been hit particularly hard. Few have any meaningful endowments, and with sponsors disappearing, many public policy and charitable organizations have had to cut their staff and programs dramatically.

With oil prices falling below fifty dollars, the figure on which the Russian budget is based, it is clear that 2009 will not be a rosy time for the Putin-Medvedev leadership.

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