That is the inevitable conclusion for readers of a NYT article on Putin and Russia that had the headline, “Russia is a mess. Why is Putin such a formidable enemy.” While the article notes the recent economic stagnation in Russia, it misses the extraordinary turnaround that took place under Putin.
According to I.M.F. data, Russia’s per capita income fell by almost 50 percent between 1990 and 1998.
This unprecedented peace time collapse took place largely under Boris Yeltsin, who was regarded as a hero by the leaders of both political parties in the United States. In the first decade of Putin’s rule it’s per capita income doubled, which translated into enormous improvements in living standards for most of Russia’s population.
The economic collapse and chaos that preceded Putin’s tenure, and the subsequent reversal in his first ten years in office likely has a lot to do with Putin’s current standing in Russia. It is unfortunate that the NYT apparently does not have access to economic data on Russia.
This post first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.