Russia Steps Up to Plate As Global Crisis-Solver

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With a financial tornado devastating the world's leading economies, there is very little global leadership to stop the contagion.

The United States and the European Union shirked their responsibility as global leaders for taking collective action to deal with the crisis. The Group of Seven finance ministers, who only gathered last week in Washington, were only able to issue a toothless declaration.

In a twist of fate, Russia is now emerging as a country that is ready and willing to assume the responsibilities of global leadership. It has taken decisive steps to contain the crisis on the Russian markets, including injecting up to $200 billion of liquidity and providing sweeping government guarantees to companies facing margin calls on their foreign loans.

President Dmitry Medvedev has been lamenting the lack of global leadership to develop emergency measures to stop the financial blowout. He is pushing for a multi-polar economic system that would be less dependent on the United States and has found unexpected support for his ideas from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and World Bank president Robert Zellick. Both called for expanding the Group of Eight to include emerging market economies and sharing with them the responsibility for dealing with the crisis.

Last week, Medvedev went to a global governance conference in Evian, France, to lay out Russia's vision for a new world economic order. He outlined an action plan to deal with the financial crisis, including measures to improve the transparency of the derivatives market and risk management for all players.

The Evian speech was a serious effort by Medvedev to assert Russia's global leadership at a time when the United States, under the rubble of bad mortgages and worthless derivatives, has forfeited the right to lead the world.

The speech had one defect, however. It was too anti-U.S. and conveyed the impression that Russia was gloating over America's problems. There was in his speech a "we told you so" quality. He could have delivered exactly the same message in a way Americans could have agreed with him. But he made it more anti-U.S. than anti-Bush, or rather, his speechwriters did.

It is hard to describe the rage that engulfs the Russian leaders as they watch the U.S. contagion decimate Russia's economic gains of the last decade. But as a new global leader, Russia should choose its words carefully and speak softly to comfort and reassure governments and investors.

After all, what are we paying U.S.-based public relations firm Ketchum for anyway?

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.