Vowing that the West would never hold Russia down, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday promised that his nation’s troubled economy would recover in two years despite a looming recession, a severely weakened ruble and growing fears about economic instability.
In an annual year-end news conference, Putin defiantly blamed Russia’s turmoil on the West, saying that it was targeting his nation as part of a long-standing geopolitical effort to limit Moscow’s influence. He appeared to be entrenching for years of conflict with the West, even as he sounded slightly more conciliatory about fostering peace in eastern Ukraine.
But attention always circled back to Russia’s deepening fiscal quagmire, which has pushed Putin into an uncomfortable role as crisis manager. He said that the nation had grown too dependent on easy profits from oil revenues and that the crisis was an opportunity to diversify. But he offered few proposals to do so.
In a measure of just how steep the challenges are, even journalists from media outlets close to the Kremlin were questioning Russian policy Thursday. But Putin ducked, weaved and offered few regrets about the most turbulent year of his decade-and-a-half in power.
“The only thing we have done is defend our interests,” he said.