Russia’s Great Transition

Before getting into the thick of policy analysis, a bit of an overview is in order. Primarily, one that will explain why there’s a Bear Market Brief (and blog!), and what it will cover.

Why is there a Bear Market Brief?

This can be summed up in a single chart.

oil-price

That’s a historical overview of crude oil prices, and it pretty effectively lays out much about Russia’s politics and economics. The red arrow in the 80s saw prices plunge, and with them, the Soviet Union’s cohesiveness as a state. Enter Vladimir Putin at just about the blue arrow, and it becomes apparent that policy aside, his timing was impeccable. The Financial Crisis, under the black arrow, saw a rapid contraction in prices, but a pretty quick rebound as well. Now we’re at the green arrow – oil prices are down by over 50%, and for a number of reasons I’ll lay out in later posts, a rapid return to $110 crude is unlikely. This is not to say that Russia is about to collapse. However, its principal economic driver and model of growth, one that boosted Putin to stratospheric popularity, has been exhausted. As Putin approaches his last term in office (and it seems like an actual “last” this time around), significant changes are in order, ones that will ultimately determine whether Russia can remain stable over the remainder of Putin’s tenure and beyond.

What Will it Cover? 

Russia’s politics, economy, and political economy. Including but not limited to fiscal policy and budgeting, ever-looming structural reform (and what that term even means), monetary policy, the business climate, and corruption. There will be less of a focus on the military and strategic issues, which will be covered only as they educate politics and the economy. So, if Russia rolls out a new fighter aircraft, you won’t see that here. However, if its leadership elects to only procure several of them because they’re unaffordable, that you will. Similarly, you won’t be seeing much on human rights here either. They’re without a doubt hugely important, and there are many talented people working in the field. But unless a human rights issue directly impacts the business climate, you won’t see much of that.

A Quick Note on Jargon

In Soviet fashion, I’m a fan of abbreviations. I’ll be using a couple of them on here, and wanted to lay them out. Some are directly from Russian, some I’ve just started using.

MinFin: The Ministry of Finance

MinEcon: The Ministry of Economic Development

Vova: The diminutive form of the Russian name Vladimir. In this case, one Vladimir Putin.

Dima: The diminutive form of the Russian name Dmitri. In this case, Dmitri Medvedev.

All for now! If you’re reading this and interested in writing, or helping with the brief, give me a shout at brief@bearmarketbrief.com.

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