Friday, September 12, 2008

Big Win for Russia? Nyet.

. Friday, September 12, 2008

(red line: U.S. stock index S&P 500; blue line: Russian stock index RTSI)

The Russia/Georgia conflict has gotten a lot of attention from IR scholars and public commentators. Some have noted that Friedman's "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention" has now been definitively disproved, others have questioned whether or not "democratic peace" theories should also be cast aside. Still others see a return to the Cold War on the horizon, and think that the redux may be a bit hotter than the original.

But not very many people are talking about the economic consequences of the conflict for Russia and Georgia. They are... not good. The Financial Times has been doing a lot of good reporting on the Russian side, and things are not going well:

An exodus of foreign capital is forcing Russian banks to slash lending as the international reaction to the country’s military standoff with Georgia starts to affect the real economy.

Bankers say Russia is facing its worst crisis since the August 1998 default. The Russian stock market has plummeted more than 40 per cent since May. A flight of capital estimated by analysts at up to $20bn (€14bn, £11bn) since the start of the conflict is drying up liquidity. The Russian Trading System index fell another 7.5 per cent on Tuesday to its lowest level since June 2006.

The rouble fell to its lowest point since the Russian financial crisis of 1998. Putin and Medvedev are in a public squabble over whether this trouble is related to the Russia-Georgia conflict, but I know of no neutral observer which doesn't think that some, not all, of the recent financial and economic trouble in Russia can be blamed on a lack of investor confidence caused in part by the Caucasian Conflict.

What's striking is that this is going on while the price of oil is still fairly high and while there are major concerns about the safety of U.S. bonds and securities. Russia, along with other commodity-rich countries, should be benefitting from the U.S.'s troubles. Indeed, some of them are, but Russia isn't. Georgia isn't doing very well, either.

What does it all mean? Daniel Drezner thinks that a more globalized world makes war more costly, and therefore less likely. Russia and Georgia both acted belligerently, and both are paying a big price, despite the fact that there have been no economic sanctions placed on either. It is true that wars are more costly if the opportunity costs (i.e. lost trade and investment) are greater, but is that enough to prevent wars that might otherwise occur? A wiser man that I will have to answer that question.


Big Win for Russia? Nyet.
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