What do you do when the ruble is in free fall, and your panicky population is buying up consumer goods and foreign currency? If you are President Vladimir Putin, you get a facial, a manicure, a make-up artist and make a jingoistic video ahead of your Thursday press conference:
The ruble has sold off like gangbusters and it is now down 45 percent since the end of September. Russia hiked interest rates to 17 percent, and foreign banks asked for higher rates as the currency continued to plummet. There is talk of a Russian debt default. But Russia may recover from this crisis of confidence, and Putin is trying his best bluff to project an image of having everything under control
What will distract a fearful population? No one knows better than we in the United States, home of the stolen Winston S. Churchill maxim: "Never let a good crisis go to waste."
Before Putin made his hey-I'm out of ideas-let's-go-to-war video, the Telegraph reports Putin told an interviewer: "Do you want Ukraine's central government to destroy everybody there? We don't want that. And we won't allow it."
Russia is limiting currency conversion to stem flight capital. Those who remember 1998 will not be reassured. Putin knows that war talk is just what he needs to whip up support to restrict money flows and take draconian measures.
Russia put pressure on exporters who were hoarding foreign currency, and expect Russia to announce new measures to stem the ruble's slide. That has helped, but it isn't enough. So watch Putin's next moves.