IWestern economists are like doctors leaning over a gravely ill patient and wondering, perplexed: how long will he hold out? The patient is Russia, and they are struggling to decide on his real state of health. Only one thing is certain, the country has not suffered the” collapse “ announced by the French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, in the early hours of the invasion of Ukraine and the implementation of Western sanctions, amplified in nine successive waves since March 2022.
This means that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) created a surprise, at the end of January, by making a diagnosis as disappointing for Westerners as it was encouraging for Vladimir Putin: the recession was limited to − 2.2% in 2022, far from the −8.5% envisaged in March 2022; activity should progress by 0.3% this year and by 2.1% in 2024, i.e. more than the 1.6% expected in the euro zone! Barring a sudden trend reversal, these data would therefore confirm the country’s resistance.
Several factors explain this apparent resilience. Starting with the policy of the Central Bank, which stabilized the ruble from the start of the war and avoided an inflationary outbreak. The country also has significant foreign exchange reserves drawn from black gold, despite the freezing of 300 billion dollars (about 281 billion euros) abroad. Since the sanctions taken after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has developed local production (food, textiles, etc.).
Customs data also indicate a marked increase in imports transiting through former Soviet republics such as Armenia and Kazakhstan, particularly of products containing microprocessors, while Turkey remains a gateway via the Caucasus. China delivers spare parts, sometimes useful to the defense industry. And the wheat harvest was exceptional in 2022, one of the rare successes of the Putin era with the export of nuclear technologies.
The closure of submarine gas pipelines and the gradual drying up of land flows did not prevent an 80% increase in gas revenues either ($138 billion). But the sinews of war remains black gold, the budget’s primary source of revenue. The IMF recognizes that the country has not yet been affected by the embargo on maritime cargoes, in force since December 5. They are redirected to its large neighbors refusing sanctions (China, India, Turkey, etc.) or transhipped on “ghost ships” with an unknown flag and erratic routes, a technique already practiced by Iran and Venezuela.
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