Russia's economy holds up, but growing challenges test Putin
Western sanctions have hit Russian banks, wealthy individuals and technology imports. But after a year of far-reaching restrictions aimed at degrading Moscow’s war chest, economic life for ordinary Russians doesn’t look all that different than it did before the invasion of Ukraine.
There’s no mass unemployment, no plunging currency, no lines in front of failing banks. The assortment at the supermarket is little changed, with international brands still available or local substitutes taking their place.
Crowds might have thinned at some Moscow malls, but not drastically. Some foreign companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks have been taken over by local owners who slapped different names on essentially the same menu.
“Economically, nothing has changed,” said Vladimir Zharov, 53, who works in television. "I work as I used to work, I go shopping as I used to. Well, maybe the prices have risen a little bit, but not in such a way that it is very noticeable.”
Russia’s economy has weathered the West's unprecedented economic sanctions far better than expected. But with restrictions finally tightening on the Kremlin’s chief moneymaker — oil — the months ahead will be an even tougher test of President Vladimir Putin’s fortress economy.
Economists say sanctions on Russian fossil fuels only now taking full effect — such as a price cap on oil — should eat into earnings that fund the military's attacks on Ukraine. Some analysts predict signs of trouble — strained government finances or a sinking currency — could emerge in the coming months.
But other economists say the Kremlin has significant reserves of money that haven’t been hit by sanctions, while links to new trade partners in Asia have quickly taken shape. They say Russia isn’t likely to run out of money this year but instead...