Putin Blames U.S. For Financial Woes

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that U.S. "irresponsibility" led to the global financial crisis and discredited its claims to world leadership, as his finance minister moved to link domestic woes to the broader downturn.

"We see an inability to take appropriate decisions," Putin said at a Cabinet meeting. "This isn't the irresponsibility of particular individuals, it is the irresponsibility of a system that, as we know, had claims to leadership."

Troubles in the U.S. financial sector have spilled over into Russian markets, hitting banking shares and stocks more broadly, and making it virtually impossible for highly leveraged companies to secure funds abroad to refinance debts.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the credit squeeze might shave one percentage point off Russian growth next year, meaning that the economy might expand by as little as 5.7 percent.

His comments came as VTB Bank Europe said Russian manufacturing shrank for a second month in September, the first back-to-back contraction since November 1998.

Russia's problems were accelerated by its war in Georgia, a slump in commodity prices and capital flight, which BNP Paribas has estimated at $57 billion in the period from Aug. 8 to Sept. 19.

"Everything that is happening in economics and finance started in the United States," Putin said.

As a result, the United States has a "responsibility" to approve Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion bailout plan, Kudrin said. President George W. Bush and Senate leaders Tuesday vowed to revive the plan to buy distressed assets from banks after Congress rejected it a day earlier.

"I think Paulson's plan is necessary," Kudrin said. "It's the responsibility of the United States to other countries," he added, echoing a statement made late Tuesday by European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet.

The role of the United States on the global financial arena will change, and the use of dollars will "gradually" decline, Kudrin added.

The government has said it may spend up to 500 billion rubles ($19.5 billion) buying shares, including 250 billion rubles this year, if markets do not stabilize. The move is part of an support package worth a total of $180 billion.

Kudrin said the government has not started buying shares and hopes that it will not need to do so. He also said the Dow Jones Industrial Average would continue to fall for six months and have an inevitable impact on Russian markets, RIA-Novosti reported.

Putin pledged $50 billion to a previously announced $100 billion of funds for the banking industry Monday and said the Central Bank would provide loans without collateral to banks.

The ruble, which fell against the dollar for a fifth straight day, may strengthen against the dollar-euro basket if the U.S. Senate endorses a modified version of the $700 billion bailout package, said Elisabeth Gruie, an emerging-markets strategist in London at BNP.

But Kudrin said the ruble was unlikely to strengthen from current levels because speculative inflows would abate as oil prices fall, Interfax reported.

(Bloomberg, Reuters)