Preserving the ruble is crucial to Vladimir Putin’s regime, Princeton professor Ekaterina Pravilova said.
Russia has a long history of viewing currency strength as a sign of national prestige.
After a strong rebound in 2022, the ruble has dropped significantly in recent months.
The Russian ruble is as crucial to Vladimir Putin’s regime as his war on Ukraine is, according to Princeton professor Ekaterina Pravilova.
This is because the currency has been touted throughout Russian history as proof of national strength, the Russia scholar wrote in the Washington Post.
“Against this historical backdrop, President Vladimir Putin’s preoccupation with the ruble and the ‘enemy currencies’ is neither new nor surprising,” she said. “In his speeches, Putin often ponders Western attempts to ruin the ruble and mocks their failure.”
Soon after the war’s start in 2022, the ruble took a dive before capital controls in the country halted a further slide.
Later that year, a strong rebound made the ruble the top-performing currency against the dollar, before dropping in recent months. Currently, it trades at 76 against the greenback.
Putin’s fixation on the ruble’s strength stems from earlier Russian beliefs that the currency’s standing signaled the country’s geopolitical reputation, according to Pravilova.
Often throughout history, the ruble was measured up against Western currencies, and Cold War propaganda routinely uplifted the ruble over the dollar as a show of strength, she noted.
But with today’s Ukraine conflict, the Kremlin can’t hide how the ruble is trading against other currencies and has pointed out the benefits of a weaker exchange rate, such as the boost to oil exports and government revenue, Pravilova said.
“In addition to the war on the battlefields, a rhetorical war unfolds, with the ruble figuring as one of its glorious heroes,” she added. “The preservation of the ruble’s standing is crucial for the regime, and the ruble’s demise may affect Putin and the government’s popularity as much as the Russian army’s losses in Ukraine.”
The Russian government can’t prevent people from desiring Western products or seal off its economy to become independent from imports, the scholar said, noting the ruble’s falling rate eventually affects millions of Russian consumers.
“The ideological fixation on the ruble’s rate paradoxically makes the regime more vulnerable and potentially susceptible to criticism at home,” Pravilova wrote.
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