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MSN Money: How to avert a Russian catastrophe

The last thing we need is another failed nation-state. Getting Russia into the World Trade Organization may be the best chance to keep its profoundly troubled economy from Armageddon.

By Jim Jubak

The death by polonium poisoning of an outspoken critic of the regime. The assassination of the corruption-fighting deputy chairman of the central bank. The culmination of a blackmail campaign that forces a Western oil company to turn over control of a Siberian energy field to the Kremlin’s candidate.

It’s not exactly the ideal way to get into a club that has kept your membership stalled on the sidelines for 13 years.

This week when the World Trade Organization meets, it will take another look at allowing Russia into the organization that sets the rules for world trade. Since Russia first applied in June 1993, Albania and China have joined. The former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Georgia have joined. Vietnam will join in January 2007. And Ukraine stands a good chance of beating Russia through the clubhouse door.

I think it’s vital that the World Trade Organization wrap up its negotiations — tough but speedy would be my motto — and get Russia into the club as quickly as it can in 2007. Not because Russia’s economy is no longer a lawless jungle ruled by the guns of criminals in and out of the government. Not because investors, Russian and Western, are suddenly finding a signed contract protection against expropriation of their property. Not because the government of President Vladimir Putin has shown sudden interest in a truly free-market economy.

On the contrary, it’s precisely because none of that has happened and none of it is likely to happen that membership in the global club is so important. Getting Russia inside the World Trade Organization, where it will have to pay some modicum of attention to the rules of the global marketplace, is Russia’s best chance at saving its economy from a potential meltdown in the near future. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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