“The Federation building complex is a new symbol — a symbol of Putin’s Russia. And halting its construction is no less significant a symbol. It’s a symbol of the fact that Putin’s Russia has reached its end.”
— Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Moscow-based Institute for Globalization Studies.
Radio Free Europe reports on the Russian year in review:
2008 was a very good…half-year for Russia.
From its historic victory against Canada in the world ice hockey championships to skyrocketing oil revenues and growing international muscle, Russia spent at least the first half of the year the way it likes — a winner on all fronts. The signs were auspicious as early as January 2, 2008, when world oil prices passed the $100-a-barrel mark for the first time.
In energy-rich Russia, where the economy depends almost exclusively on resources, a single $1 rise in oil prices can translate into $1 billion in extra revenues a day. So by July, when prices hit their peak at $147 a barrel, Moscow appeared unstoppable. It continued its revenue-fueled advance through Europe and Asia, buying up billions in energy holdings. The EU’s failure to progress with its plans for the Nabucco pipeline allowed Russia to inch closer to a monopoly on natural-gas shipments to Europe via its proposed South Stream and Nord Stream pipelines.
Moscow also remained the foreign-policy bully, delighting in the failure of Georgia and Ukraine to advance further in their NATO membership bids, and maintaining a fighting stance over Washington’s Central European missile-defense plans. The Kremlin even pulled off a potentially tricky political transition that moved Vladimir Putin from the presidency to the premiership with no apparent loss of power or public affection. His presidential replacement, Dmitry Medvedev, proved a competent but unremarkable successor who appeared content to stay in Putin’s shadow.
Paul Quinn-Judge, a Russia expert with the International Crisis Group, describes the first seven months of the year as a heady combination of “hubris and oil.”