Putin Watches Russian Economy Collapse Along With His Stature

TIME

Stability was always the watchword of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, and for more than a decade it rang true. Ever since he came to power in 2000, Putin presented himself as the antidote to what Russians call the “wild 90s,” the decade of economic upheaval that culminated in the crash of 1998. The high price of oil, and the fortunes it brought the Russian petrostate, has since allowed Putin to keep his promise of prosperity and economic growth. But this week the myth of Putin the Stabilizer collapsed, along with the value of the national currency.

Driven down by a six-month plunge in the price of oil, the ruble lost about a quarter of its value against the dollar in the first two days of this week, its steepest fall since the crash of 1998, when Russia defaulted on its debt. The central bank took drastic measures to avoid the risk…

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