John T. Bennett
Russia's burgeoning oil and natural gas exports are underwriting Russian efforts to regain status as a world superpower
Russian leaders have the Obama administration's efforts to pressure
U.S.-Russian relations returned to the front pages last week after Obama urged outgoing Russian President
"Putin still aspires for
The price of a barrel of oil was nearly
Burwell says she "places more weight" for
But, make no mistake, bloated national coffers from high oil and gas prices underwrite Putin's muscle-flexing, experts say.
Putin made a number of big domestic promises during the presidential race, including plans to usher in sweeping pension and wage hikes. He also put forth "a rather ambitious military modernization program," Pifer says.
"If oil prices remain high, he might be able to do all of those things," Pifer says. "If prices come down, however, Putin will have some very tough decisions to make at home ... between guns versus butter."
Should oil and gas prices tumble, experts say Putin would likely pick butter.
"In 2007 when oil was doing well, Putin [as president] could have modernized the Russian military," says Pifer. Instead, Putin made a number of economic moves, such as the creation of a rainy day fund that was used during the recent global financial crisis," Pifer notes.
What's more, Putin returns to power with his sharp eyes locked on his opposition, which is composed of the country's urban, middle-class populations.
Experts agree that Putin would be hard-pressed to break his pension and wage promises in favor of a few more missiles. But even an economically weaker
"They have a very sovereigntist, non-interventionalist view of world affairs," Burwell says. That means
"The Russian also have real hard-core, national, commercial and other interests in both
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