Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Alexey Maishev/Sputnik/Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Alexey Maishev/Sputnik/Kremlin)

Five months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remains a startling lack of understanding by many Western policymakers and commentators of the economic dimensions of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and what it has meant for Russia’s economic positioning both domestically and globally.

Far from being ineffective or disappointing, as many have argued, international sanctions and voluntary business retreats have exerted a devastating effect on Russia’s economy. The deteriorating economy has served as a powerful if underappreciated complement to the deteriorating political landscape facing Putin.

That these misunderstandings persist is not entirely surprising given the lack of available economic data. In fact, many of the excessively sanguine Russian economic analyses, forecasts and projections that have proliferated in recent months share a crucial methodological flaw: these analyses draw most, if not all, of their underlying evidence from periodic economic releases by the Russian government itself. Numbers released by the Kremlin have long been held to be largely if not always credible, but there are certain problems.