So far, the lesson of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine is a simple one: markets matter.
With the Western powers able to muster little more than angry words against the Russian incursion into Crimea, it was the steep decline of the country’s stock market and its currency that sent panic through the halls of the Kremlin, putting President Vladimir Putin’s oligarch backers at great risk.
What followed was Putin’s incoherent, rambling press conference, followed by stalemate. In a world as interconnected as ours, no nation can afford a shock to its currency or its markets — certainly not an emerging market country such as Russia, China, Argentina or Brazil.
The “markets matter” lesson should not be lost on some of the most left-leaning members of the Democratic party, who may find themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to America’s resurgent energy markets. The U.S. holds reserves of natural gas that could render moot Russian threats to cut off European supplies. The mere suggestion that America’s gas could meet European demand could be enough to settle this crisis in the West’s favor.
During the past few years, there’s been plenty of reason to doubt the capability of the free-enterprise system to police itself and fairly distribute wealth in our society. But in combination with freedom and the rule of law, it does remain an incredibly powerful tool, perhaps even strong enough to befuddle an autocrat like Putin.