Russian stocks and the rouble bounced this week as Russia's president Vladimir Putin appeared willing to help broker peace in eastern Ukraine. He laid out a seven-point ceasefire plan, including an international monitoring force.
In the previous few days, the rouble had hit a record low against the dollar after more Russian troops were sent to Ukraine. The renewed incursion prompted the EU to consider tougher economic sanctions against Russia.
This week's relief over the ceasefire news was tempered by reports of ongoing explosions in the eastern city of Donetsk.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
What the commentators said
This would entrench the "status quo of a Ukraine unable to become economically or politically successful, the endgame the canny Russian president has sought all along".
As for further sanctions, Putin knows not to expect anything significant, added Hulsman. "Iran-style sanctions" would send a fragile Europe into recession, given its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
However, the sanctions seen so far, along with Russian retaliatory measures, are "beginning to weigh" on the Russian economy, said Chris Weafer of Macro Advisory. Russian banks that have trouble getting loans from Western sources turn to the Russian central bank, which has had to put up interest rates to stem capital outflows.
As credit gets pricier, consumers have more trouble servicing debts and thus also tighten their belts.
At the same time, the fall in the rouble and banned fruit imports, a response to Western sanctions, are raising prices for consumers. Car sales were down by 23% year-on-year in July.
Russia's decade-long consumer boom appears to be drawing to a close, while investment is barely growing, Capital Economics pointed out. Improving investment is crucial to raising the country's growth potential, and the foreign expertise required to do so is now even less likely to be forthcoming. The economy is flirting with recession.
Patience could give the West the upper hand here, said Hulsman. The Kremlin may be willing to shrug off a recession for now. "But how will the Russian people feel" in three years or in six?
Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.
After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.
His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.
Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.
The end of China’s boom
Like the US, China too got fat on fake money. Now, China's doom is not far away.
By Bill Bonner Published
The many frauds of Dozy Mmobuosi, failed Sheffield United owner
Profile Dozy Mmobuosi was a big-hitter with a fintech empire when he stepped in to rescue a failing Yorkshire football club. But he was not quite the saviour he seemed.
By Jane Lewis Published