Today, one American dollar buys 32 Russian rubles. Most likely, this is not what Putin envisioned as the result of his economic reforms ten years ago.
Vladimir Putin can be personally credited with a lot of positive developments in Russian economy over the past ten years. Because of Vladimir, today, Russia has private land ownership, functioning banking system, credit system, next-to-zero government debt, and the rising middle class. However, as far as the world is concerned, Russia is still not the investors' dreamland. The little table of ruble-to-dollar exchange rate shows up on all Russian websites and TV screens, and it tells a not-so-good story. In the middle of America's worst financial crisis, the dollar is stronger than ever. Russian ruble, backed by barely any government debt and solid cash flows, is one of the least desirable currencies. When I left Moscow half a year ago, dollar could buy 26 rubles. In the past two weeks, that number has shifted to 32 rubles per dollar.
In the meantime, Russian websites and general population publicly make fun of Putin-Medvedev team and show dissatisfaction with the inability of choosing their own governors, Medvedev's failure to curb the corruption, and the growing wealth of bureaucrats. All the aforementioned problems were supposed to be short-term growing pains of the improving Russia. Instead, the pains became the norm. Why do world's investors chose the American dollar over the Russian ruble? Because American legal and court systems work, secretaries of states and governors earn a fraction of corporate CEOs' salaries, and a speeding driver means a speeding tickets, regardless of whether you're a star, a homeless, or a daughter of a former U.S. president. Maybe in the new decade, the (hopefully) new Russian leaders will take a closer look at Russia's corruption problem and society's needs. As they say, money will come later - it always does.