These are from The Federalist.
- The oil stimulus
- The EPA’s war on energy
- The Supreme Court gets another shot at ObamaCare
- Republicans will have just enough power to fight over it
- Will anyone challenge Hillary?
- A police rebellion
- Russia will be in trouble and will be trouble
- Did anybody tell the enemy the war is over?
Here’s the one I want to highlight, because it’s the one that concerns me most, at least until we get a Republican President:
7) Russia will be in trouble and will be trouble.
One of the most enjoyable consequences of the oil price collapse is seeing how it takes the wind out of the sails of a whole collection of evil regimes.
Oil is the dictators’ best friend. It is a steady source of revenue that can be maintained and controlled by the government, often with the help of foreign subcontractors, even when government controls, corruption, and cronyism have crushed the rest of the economy. So a collapse in the price of oil is a disaster for the bad guys.
Nobody is getting hit worse than the regime in Venezuela, which is now on the verge of defaulting on its debt. Since Venezuela has been a big economic sponsor of the regime in Cuba, you can see how a Venezuelan collapse will affect Cuba—and may well be the reason the Castros are seeking a lifeline from President Obama.
But the big geopolitical implications will come from the impact of the oil collapse on Russia. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that Europe is dependent on buying Russian oil and gas; now we’re about to see to what extent Russia is dependent on selling its oil and gas to Europe.
The downside is, as Megan McArdle puts it, “Russia’s Problems Are Everyone’s Problems.” “[T]he world is about to experience a major financial crisis in a country that seems to deal with its internal troubles by slicing off bits of neighboring countries.” Like its leader, Vladimir Putin, Russia is a country with a Napoleon complex: the smaller and weaker it gets, the more belligerent it becomes, as a form of overcompensation.
But shirtless macho posturing only gets you so far when you don’t have the cash to back it up. There is some speculation that a financial crisis could lead to defections in Russia’s “near abroad,” its ring of former Soviet republics and fellow kleptocracies. Then there’s the fact that Putin’s aggression has permanently alienated Ukraine, which is now taking steps toward joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Baltic states are increasing their defense budgets. One hopes that other European nations will follow, at a time when Russia is not in a position to match their spending.
I think Russia is weak enough that Putin would slink away with his tail between his legs, if we had an American leader with the guts to call his bluff. But that’s not going to happen, so in 2015, look for a volatile mix of greater belligerence and diminished capability.
When I hear about the collapse of the Russian currency, it makes me worry that we could a lot of scary scenarios as Putin tries to hold his state together.