Foreign trade

   During most of the Soviet period, most of Russia’s foreign trade was with its allies in the Eastern Bloc and friendly regimes in the Third World. However, the inefficiencies of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), which functioned as a rudimentary common market for the socialist economies, became increasingly evident during the 1970s. While the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) imported few goods from abroad, it did emerge as the world’s largest oil producer under Leonid Brezhnev, and soon began selling its hydrocarbons to Western European nations. However, more than half of the USSR’s foreign trade was still with COMECON nations when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.
   After independence, Russia opened its doors to imports from around the world (particularly technology, machinery, food, and textiles), while establishing new trade links with countries such as Turkey, Japan, and South Korea. Raw materials, such as oil, natural gas, metals, timber, and minerals, continued to dominate exports. Russia’s agricultural and manufacturing industries suffered terribly under Boris Yeltsin, as did Russia’s foreign trade with the near abroad, despite attempts to maintain economic links through the Commonwealth of Independent States and other post-Soviet schemes. Trade relations with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, however, remain strong. Arms exports, a mainstay of the Soviet economy, contracted sharply in the early 1990s but rebounded handily under Vladimir Putin. The dramatic increase in petroleum prices also helped balance the country’s foreign trade. In 2007, exports totaled more than $350 billion, making it the world’s 12th-largest exporter. The same year, its imports were an estimated $150 billion. The ratio of imports to exports has risen dramatically in recent years as the Russian economy has improved.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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