- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised Thursday the country would emerge stronger from a world economic crisis he said was triggered by U.S. recklessness.

Putin said the global financial system had made the crisis “impossible to avert.”

“Cheap money doping and mortgage troubles in the United States have caused a real chain reaction, paralyzed the global financial system and brought global distrust to the market,” Putin said, addressing a meeting of United Russia, the dominant pro-Kremlin party he leads.

The prime minister said Russia had prepared for the crisis in advance through economic growth and abundant currency reserves – benefits of the oil-driven economic boom during his eight-year presidency.

But he acknowledged that “low diversification of the national economy, its low efficiency and the insufficient development of the financial system” made Russia’s economy “extremely dependent on global factors.”

Despite that vulnerability, Putin assured the nation it would emerge stronger from the turmoil. “We can and must come out of the global instability stronger and more competitive,” he said.

Putin promised that Russia’s currency reserves generated during oil boom “will ensure the stability of the Russian budget system for the coming years, with no dependance on world oil prices or traditional export goods.”

“We’ll do all it takes to make sure the collapse of the previous years does not repeat in our country,” he said.

The party congress gave Putin a chance to take center stage and cast himself as an indispensable leader at a difficult time. Putin’s 45-minute speech dwarfed President Dmitry Medvedev’s much shorter opening remarks, and his mix of sweeping statements and detailed plans seemed designed to assure Russians that he is hard at work to protect them from the effects of the crisis.

Putin came up with an array of tax breaks to support the real economy.

He admitted that the crisis may leave thousands of people jobless as weaker global demand for metals and other goods is affecting Russian producers.

“In these conditions, we must be prepared for structural transformation in the labor market,” Putin said. He also called for an increase in unemployment payments as of Jan. 1.

On the international front, Putin said Russia will provide up to $1 billion to the International Monetary Fund to add to reserves intended to help countries hit by the crisis. Putin added that Russia would also provide credits to China and India to encourage them to buy Russian goods, and provide Belarus with a $2 billion loan.

Associated Press Writer Steve Gutterman contributed to this report.

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