2015 has not been good to Russia; the spread between Brent and WTI is gone in anticipation of US exports and both benchmarks have flirted with sub $45 prices. A hostage to such prices, the ruble has yet to begin its turnaround and the state’s finances are in extreme disarray. President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings remain sky-high, but his country has not faced such difficult times since he took office more than 15 years ago.
Since the turn of the new year the ruble has fallen over 13 percent and Russia’s central bank and finance department are running out of options – to date, policy makers have hiked interest rates to their highest level since the 1998 Russian financial crisis and embarked on a 1 trillion-ruble ($15 billion) bank recapitalization plan to little effect. Their latest, and most dramatic, plan is to abandon the dollar – at least somewhat. Continue reading