Friday, August 29, 2008

Putin I and Putin II

You hear a lot of discussion recently about Russia's new assertiveness (sometimes a different description is used!). And it is obvious that high oil prices have a lot to do with it. But this picture produced by my colleague Cliff Gaddy puts it neatly in perspective. He compares Russian government foreign debt with its foreign exchange reserves.
In the Putin I regime, Russian government debt was much larger than foreign reserves. In Putin II we have more than a complete reversal (though I should note that foreign debt of state-affiliated companies would add to government debt -- presumably if Rosneft cannot pay its Eurobonds the government will). In the Putin I regime the west had lots of leverage on Russia. Now that leverage is gone.

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