This worldwide economic crisis is not without its benefits to some.
While Russia’s government said the economy will contract for the first time in a decade and currency reserves are down 36 percent from August, the nation’s relative strength is raising Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s influence over former Soviet states. Ukraine discussed borrowing $5 billion. Kazakhstan wants Russia to buy ailing BTA Bank. Belarus is asking for $3 billion in loans, on top of $2 billion granted last year.
“Russia isn’t looking at a straight-line deterioration into oblivion,” said Kieran Curtis, who helps manage $800 million in emerging-market fixed-income assets in London at Aviva Investors Ltd. “It has enough liquid assets to take stakes in all kinds of things in the former Soviet states.”
Russia may be willing to draw on its reserves to prop up neighboring economies, said Ivan Tchakarov, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in London. “Ukraine will require more than the $16 billion from the IMF, so they will need Russian money,” he said. “It’s the perfect time for Russia to flex its muscles.”
Kazakhstan is seeking to sell its 78 percent stake in Almaty-based BTA Bank, the country’s largest, to Russia’s government-controlled lender OAO Sberbank, Arman Dunayev, deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s state oil fund, said Feb. 2.
Armenia will receive $500 million from Russia, equivalent to about 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product, Putin said on Feb. 28. Belarus, which borders Russia and Poland, has a $2.46 billion credit line from the IMF in addition to loans from Russia.
Kyrgyzstan got a $2 billion loan from Russia and was promised a further $150 million in economic aid on Feb. 3. The same day, Kyrgyzstan’s government announced it would shutter the military base the U.S. Air Force has used for supplying troops in Afghanistan.