Putin’s Version of “House of Cards”

If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table...

“If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.” Frank Underwood to Secretary of State Catherine Durant in House of Cards — an American political drama television series released on Netflix.

It seems that Vladimir Putin has also been watching House of Cards as he has been “turning the table” against the West. Today, I watched Putin’s Press Conference closely, in some ways the venue and the lecture he gave the world about his country’s actions in Ukraine said it all as he sat in an easy chair and spoke with boldness and suspicion.

Putin has shrugged off the US threats to impose political and economic sanctions saying “In the modern world, where everything is linked and everyone depends on others in one way or another, we can incur damage to one another, but it would be mutual damage,”. When he was asked about the possibility that members of the G8 will not show up at the summit scheduled in Sochi in June, he said: “if they don’t’ want to come, it’s OK.’

It seems that his “table turning” strategy was welcomed by financial markets as they calmed today on hopes of a cooling of tensions, helping stocks recover some of their losses from a sell-off on Monday. Stocks in America, Europe and Asia turned higher, while oil and gas prices modestly eased. The Russian market welcomed Putin’s comments as the MICEX index rose 5% after a 10.8% loss on Monday, while the ruble recovered slightly.

Despite markets rebound on hopes of tension easing in Ukraine I remain somewhat anxious even before the Ukrainian crisis because of concerns about emerging markets. I believe confidence remains fragile, and the calm could quickly evaporate. The economic implication of Ukraine crisis remains highly dangerous; with the interim government in Kiev struggling to find its feet, Putin’s control in Crimea and a potential for further mobilization.

Unless things calm down on the political front between Russia and the West, the atmosphere will disturb global markets, crumble confidence and will certainly be as galvanizing yet turbulent like the television series — House of Cards.