Some more very interesting information on not only Russia, but also Venezuela, and Iran.
From NY Times:
As the price of oil roared to ever higher levels in recent years, the leaders of Venezuela, Iran and Russia muscled their way onto the world stage, using checkbook diplomacy and, on occasion, intimidation.
Now, plummeting oil prices are raising questions about whether the countries can sustain their spending — and their bids to challenge United States hegemony.
For all three nations, oil money was a means to an ideological end.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela used it to jump-start a socialist-inspired revolution in his country and to back a cadre of like-minded leaders in Latin America who were intent on eroding once-dominant American influence.
Iran extended its influence across the Middle East, promoted itself as the leader of the Islamic world and used its petrodollars to help defy the West’s efforts to block its nuclear program.
Russia, which suffered a humiliating economic collapse in the 1990s after the fall of communism, recaptured some of its former standing in the world. It began rebuilding its military, wrested control of oil and gas pipelines and pushed back against Western encroachment in the former Soviet empire.
But such ambitions are harder to finance when oil is at $74.25 a barrel, its closing price Monday in New York, than when it is at $147, its price as recently as three months ago.
That is not to say that any of the countries is facing immediate economic disaster or will abandon long-held political goals. And the price of oil, still double what was considered high just a few years ago, could always shoot back up.
Still, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have all based their spending on oil prices they thought were conservative but are now close to the market level. Significant further drops could tip the three countries into deficit spending or at least force them to choose among priorities. A worldwide recession, which many economists say is likely, would worsen matters, dampening energy demand and holding down prices.
It is not clear whether the new pressures could create opportunities for the United States to ease tensions, or whether the three countries’ leaders will rely more on angry words even if they cannot afford provocative actions. Mr. Chávez has continued his overtures to Russia. He, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran may now see the United States, hobbled by financial crisis, as even more vulnerable.
God Bless America
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