Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

By Marshall I. Goldman | Go to book overview

7
Russia:
The Unrestrained Super Energy Power

THE ENERGY GIANT REAWAKENS

In 1999, as petroleum prices began their climb from $10 a barrel to over $100, memories of the 1998 financial meltdown and its impact on Russia quickly faded. Fortunately for him, Vladimir Putin’s selection as prime minister in August 1999 and four months later his appointment as acting president coincided with the recovery in petroleum prices. The increase in oil prices would probably have triggered an economic recovery even if Boris Yeltsin had still been in power. Nevertheless, Putin did what he could to take advantage of that recovery in oil prices.

Putin’s first priority was to prevent any further deterioration in Russia’s political and economic situation. In the aftermath of the August 17, 1998, economic crisis, it was difficult to see anything but a continuing deterioration in the economy. The banks remained closed, and because of the sharp drop in the value of the ruble more and more businesses, especially those run by foreign companies or dependent on imported components, closed their doors as well. Many of the country’s most talented people lost almost all their savings. No wonder so many simply emigrated to the West.

The devalued ruble, however, along with the gradually rising price of oil, proved to be that proverbial blessing in disguise. A cheaper ruble

-170-

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