Now, with oil prices rising again — they hit $100 the first week of the Egypt protests — most observers believe the world’s biggest energy producer has enough oil money to douse any social tensions ahead of the 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential elections. Russia is accelerating out of the economic crisis and the $1.5 trillion economy is expected to grow by more than 4 percent this year after a 4 percent rebound in 2010.
“An oil price of $100 helps preserve stability as it gives additional budget revenues and that allows the government to direct money toward those groups that could express discontent. In other words, Putin’s regime still has a margin of safety,” Vladimir Ryzhkov, one Russia’s most respected opposition leaders, told Reuters.
Alexander Ignatenko, one of Russia’s leading experts on the Arab world and head of the Moscow-based Institute for Religion and Politics, dismisses talk of a large-scale revolt. “This is simply a lurid fantasy of the opposition,” he said. “It is simply the product of a rich and I would say the rather sick imagination of the Russian opposition.”