Russia Is Very Touchy About Its Economy
Putin's official statistics say the economy isn't doing well. Actually, it's doing worse than that.
The European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite.
Russia, President Barack Obama stated cruelly but accurately in December 2016, doesn’t “produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms.” Vladimir Putin was sensitive about that then and he’s more so now that the West has imposed economic sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Federal State Statistics Service, or Rosstat, used to tell it pretty straight about the condition of Russia’s economy, and its announcement last week of a 2.2 percent contraction during the first quarter of 2023 might at first blush have seemed accurate. But in fact Rosstat’s reliability “is falling off a cliff,” according to Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Washington-based Institute of International Finance, a trade group for the financial services industry. Russia’s economy is doing much worse than Rosstat says.
The Wall Street Journal has been reporting this story diligently, and that’s a big reason why Putin threw the Journal’s Evan Gershkovich in jail. (Here is what you can do to support Gershkovich.) On Friday the Journal’s Josh Zumbrun reported about a new way to compare Russia’s economic statistics to observable reality: by measuring its air pollution from outer space. You can read my latest New Republic piece, about the implications of that, here.
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