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The number of firearms produced and sold in the United States has continued to rise, and according to the Firearms Commerce in the US report produced by the Justice Department, the amount of firearms that are manufactured in the country have tripled since 1968. This may be alarming considering the fact that in the time it took the number of manufactured guns to triple, the US population has only grown by 35%. In 2015 alone, there were about 9,360,000 firearms manufactured in the US. Out of the 9,360,000 firearms that were manufactured in the US, only about 343,000 firearms were exported from the US in 2015, which is less than 4% of the total.

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This is the fourth post in a five-part blog series focused on the energy industry.

As more countries consider the environmental impacts of capturing and using different forms of energy, the era for previous power-houses like coal is coming to a close. This post will explore the accessibility, development, and trading of upcoming fossil fuels around the globe.

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Late last year Russia and OPEC agreed to extend their agreement to decrease oil production until the end of 2018.  Russia, OPEC, and other major oil-producing countries agreed to reduce their oil production in 2017 in an attempt to decrease the global supply of oil and in turn increase the price of oil.  An extension was signed in advance of the previous deal ending in this coming March.  The original cut in oil production was in response to falling oil prices.  After declining for the previous few years, 2017 saw rising oil prices worldwide, due in large part to the agreement limiting oil that OPEC and other countries enacted last year.  West Texas Intermediate saw crude oil prices rise from $43.33 per barrel in 2016 to $50.56 per barrel in 2017. 

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Venezuela's international standing has suffered in the wake of its controversial presidential election and constitutional assembly. Amidst allegations of vote manipulation and crackdowns on protests and opposition, Venezuela's electoral process and ensuing government scandals have faced condemnation from several international leaders. Foreign ministers of fellow Mercosur countries voted to indefinitely suspend Venezuela from the trade bloc. The United States levied sanctions on numerous Venezuelan officials, including the country's president, preventing them from doing business in or traveling to the U.S. Other nations have refused to recognize the election results. The international response will likely impact the already-suffering Venezuelan economy, which has declined sharply over the past few years.

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The Russian economy has been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014. Oil prices, once over $110, now sit slightly above $50. Oil exports are a vital component of the Russian economy and made up $250 billion of the country’s exports until the collapse in prices. Today, oil exports only amount to $60 billion, a 75% drop. To combat the reduction in oil exports, the Russian government has been working hard to build up the country’s agriculture industry. The government’s efforts, along with positive impacts from European Union sanctions, are beginning to make a difference and are shaking up the global dynamics of the agriculture industry.

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Russia has been pushing to incorporate nuclear technology in medicine. This process, known as nuclear medicine, involves the use of radioactive substances producing dangerous radiations to gamma rays, beta particles, and alpha particles. Although it may be risky and unsafe, Russia’s increasing participation in the “international market for the production of medical isotopes” has brought tremendous success to the country in the means for fighting cancer.

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Since March 2014, the European Union has continuously levied various forms economic sanctions against Russia. Initial injunctions were imposed in response to Russia's forced annexation of Crimea and the consequential violence that ensued in Ukraine. These measures included asset freezes and travel restrictions on certain prominent officials, bans on imported goods, investment, and tourism services to and from Crimea, and restrictions on economic cooperation. Russia retaliated in August 2014 with a food embargo on all other nations that joined in sanctioning Russia, including the United States. Since the introductory sanctions, both sides have held firm in their restrictions and have often taken measures to extend them. The EU is the latest to do this, having recently extended their asset freeze and travel ban policies.

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Relations between Russia and Turkey have been strained ever since a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber was downed by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet over the border between Turkey and Syria in late November. Turkey claimed the shooting was done because the bomber was violating Turkish airspace. Turkey also made a statement professing their awareness of the presence of Russian warplanes in the Syrian area, leading Russia to believe that the strike was a premeditated attack. In retaliation, Vladimir Putin signed a series of economic sanctions against Ankara on November 28. Now, Russia is discussing passing additional sanctions against Turkey.

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The once mighty emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China are currently experiencing the negative consequences that come with the title "Emerging Markets". Brazil and Russia are experiencing terrible recessions, China is attempting to control a stagnant market, and India is struggling with economic reforms. To give an indication of the severity of the situation, Goldman Sachs, whose former chief economist coined the title given to the BRIC countries, has recently pulled its BRIC fund after years of continued losses. 

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Natural resources businesses in the Arctic are facing a complex economic situation. A new economic organization, the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) Secretariat, was recently founded in the region to help small to medium-sized businesses and promote favorable business policies. However, many countries are reassessing their strategies of drilling for oil and gas in Arctic region because of falling oil prices and the downturn of the global economy.

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Tomas Hult, Director of Michigan State University's International Business Center, recently wrote an article for The Conversation discussing the recent struggles that the BRIC countries are facing. The article touches on the immense economic promise displayed by Brazil, Russia, India, and China at the turn of the millennium, while also presenting the current economic standing of these nations. Follow this link to access Tomas's article and broaden your knowledge of the BRIC countries.

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Ukraine’s economy has contracted ten of the last eleven quarters in an economic downturn that stretches back to 2012. In the first quarter of 2015 the economy contracted 18% compared to the same period last year, while Gross Domestic Product fell 7% in the same period. The underlying causes of this recession are both a downturn in the domestic market, as well as a struggle to sever its economic dependence on Russia and orient itself more towards the west, specifically the European Union.

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Russia continues to slide towards a recession, as more reports from different industries show contraction. One of the more recent, undesirable stories comes from Russia’s auto industry. In the month of March, Russia’s auto industry faced a slew of indicators that reflect a downturn. A consumer report found that car demand decreased, while two of the world’s largest car manufacturers, General Motors based in the United States and Volkswagen from Germany, announced plans to downsize operations in Russia.

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Following international sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a steep drop in oil prices, Russia’s economy has been suffering from the effects of an economic downturn in recent months. One of the major industries affected by the economic crisis has been the Russian tourism industry, which has seen an estimated 35% decline in visitors since the beginning of 2014. Spending by Russian tourists has also declined as the financial crisis has deepened, resulting in a 44% drop in spending during December and a 51% decline in January. The loss of tourists has hurt all facets of the industry, and has forced many businesses to take cost cutting measures.

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Late last year, the RUB-USD exchange rate dipped significantly, which carried on into 2015 with the ruble’s unfaltering depreciation against the dollar. This now full-fledged currency crisis has Russia’s Central Bank bailing out its private banking sector and reinstating a unique quantitative easing strategy that aims to spur foreign investment and have a positive impact on GDP. Despite the government scrambling to stabilize its currency, economic recession in 2015 seems inevitable.

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On Wednesday, the European Union Commission approved plans to combine the energy markets of its twenty-eight member countries into a unified energy market. The Commission stated that the EU Energy Union would provide many benefits to the countries of the EU, lessening their dependence on energy supplies from foreign countries and boosting their economic power significantly. The ambitious plan is facing some criticism, and has yet to be approved by the European Parliament as well as the EU's member countries, but it certainly has the potential for major influence on European economics.

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This past week, the Obama Administration cleared a plan to override federal regulations on oil drilling off of Alaska's coast in the Arctic Ocean. The proposal is intended to establish drilling standards for the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, both of which are believed to be abundant in fossil fuels, and follows a growing emphasis in the international system on the Arctic's natural resources. Last January, 1,400 participants from several countries gathered in Tromsø, Norway to stake their claims at the Arctic Frontiers conference. Russia's increasing interest in the region, coupled with its growing military presence throughout international waters, gave the conference unprecedented significance.

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This past Monday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services downgraded Russia’s credit rating to BB+, also known as “junk”, for the first time in more than 10 years. This means that it is below investment grade, reflecting the country’s struggling financial position. The Russian economy has been thrown in a downward spiral because of intensifying pressure from sanctions from the United States and the European Union over the Ukraine crisis, and the steep decline in oil prices, an industry from which Russia derives much of its revenue from.

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Just last week, Russia's currency, the ruble, fell sharply in value by almost 20%. This drastic event sent Russia's central banks into chaos as they consistently increased interest rates to try to rebalance the ruble. On Thursday, Putin declared that the ruble has reached its highest value in three weeks and is stable again. Unfortunately, economists warn that the fall and subsequent recovery of the ruble is not going to pass without adverse effects, both for Russia and for the global economy. Russia, which has already had a rough year economically, now is forced to withstand the threat of an impending recession. Other regions of the world will also have to be wary of the impact of the ruble dilemma.

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Now that a year has passed since former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign Ukraine's EU Association Agreement, which began the protests in Maidan Square in Ukraine, the dust from the conflict is beginning to settle allowing speculation regarding the outlook of the nation's rebuilding economy. Now that current President Petro Poroshenko has signed the agreement, many economists are pointing towards rapid growth in the country's tech sector as a sign that clear skies are ahead for the European-aligned new Ukraine. In spite of this, crippling corruption and a brain drain are also casting doubts over Ukraine's foreseeable future.

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As discussed in an earlier blog post, oil prices are continuing to fall as global demand weakens, affecting economies around the globe, such as the United States, Norway, and Saudi Arabia. One of the countries most affected is Russia, which heavily depends on the oil industry, so much so that it makes up an estimated 60% of the country’s exports. The Russian government began the year expecting oil prices to be near $96 a barrel, and with current oil prices well below this number, there is reason to worry about Russia’s economy.

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Tensions across Europe are escalating as a potential energy crisis is looming in the near future. In June of this year, Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine, citing Ukraine's failure to payback debt. Ukraine has since been receiving gas from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Hungary, however, suspended the flow of natural gas to Ukraine last Friday, intensifying the energy crisis in Ukraine.  Ukraine is dependent on natural gas to heat homes and to power industry during the rapidly approaching winter months.

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As harvest time approaches across Europe, many farmers are worried about how much revenue they will make this fall because of trade restrictions with Russia. These trade restrictions, a result of the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, have had a large impact on European growers, who ship an estimated 5.2 billion euros worth of produce to Russian markets. With Russia’s embargo on European goods, farmers across the European Union are scrambling to find new markets to sell their goods, or risk large price reductions as a result of smaller demand.

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Within the last weeks, few news headlines have been as heart-wrenching as the loss of 298 lives on the Malaysian Airlines commercial flight that has been suspected of being destroyed by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Stemming from the Russian government's support of this group, many countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, have proposed increasing sanctions on Vladimir Putin's government. These sanctions would include banning people in the U.S. from banking with three Russian banks, as well as sanctions targeting the oil sector, defense equipment, and sensitive technologies.

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The Russian defense industry, despite its recorded 28% growth rate over the past decade, has shifted its sights towards Latin America due to the crisis in Syria and changing economic and ideological ties towards the European Union throughout former Soviet satellite states. Latin America, and especially Venezuela, has experienced a 61% growth rate of its military expenditures since 2004, which is great news for a needy Russian defense industry that has seen the disappearance of its primary trading partners of Eastern Europe, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Syria.

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After 10 years of negotiations, Russia and China have finally reached a natural gas deal.  The 30-year agreement worth an estimated $400 billion will supply China with Russian natural gas, beginning in 2018.  China will make advance payments amounting to as much as $25 billion to Russia to develop the necessary infrastructure to effectively supply the gas.  With this deal signed, Russia may be in a better position to negotiate with the United States and European Union over imposed sanctions for Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.

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In the face of major economic sanctions from many countries around the world, especially the United States and other Western nations, Russia has been actively looking to avoid economic isolation. As a result of this, it has turned to many large nations in the East to set up economic agreements. One country that is willing to open its doors is China. After over ten years of talks on the subject, Russia and China are finally coming close to signing what has been called a "Holy Grail" for Russia and especially Moscow; a deal where Russia will send natural gas to China.

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As Russia prepares to make Crimea part of Russia, other countries have watched from afar and have developed plans to impose economic sanctions on Russia. Government officials from the United States have already signed an order enabling economic sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy. Leaders from the European Union are also considering their options as they meet in Brussels to discuss economic sanctions against Russia. With economic sanctions on Russia looming, the impact on Russia and the global economy remains to be seen.

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In the midst of what appeared to be a comeback for the European automotive market, which includes western Russia in international marketing figures, the current political crisis in Ukraine has spurred on fears that Russia's days as a growing reliable source of car sales may be coming to a quick halt. Seeing as Russian forces in the Crimea region has resurrected Cold War tensions between Russian and Western supported factions, American and European investors in the Russian automotive market have reportedly lost confidence in Russia as a continued source of fuel for the sector's global recovery. These tensions come alongside economic turmoil that the international automotive industry has been handling in other emerging markets, which includes the currency market problems that are worsening prospects in the emerging-market countries of Turkey and South Africa.

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Now that so many businesses are expanding into the BRIC countries, one major focus should be how are they going to secure the best and brightest to work for them.  The needs and wants from employers by professionals in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China are unlike that of employees in developed countries. Companies need to learn how to tailor their workplace in these countries in order to identify, secure, and retain top talent.

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Russia has spent more than $45 billion hosting the most expensive Winter Olympics in history with the hope of boosting its economy. People are beginning to doubt if this larger expenditure is really worth it. Although people have already seen the Russian ruble appreciate in value, they are still unsure if the Olympics will take Russia out of the time when the economic growth slowed down to only 1.3 percent last year. This article will analyze the economic data of several countries after hosting major international sporting events so you are able to predict how Russia’s economy will perform after the Winter Olympics.

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Just how much does it cost to host an Olympics? The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are more expensive than every other Winter Olympics combined. The cost is projected to be around $51 billion, which is ten million dollars more than the 2012 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. This money goes towards construction, transportation, hospitality, security, lodging and more. For events like the Olympics, it is starting to look like a waste of money for all of the over-extravagant, luxurious decorations and celebrations that take place. It has become less about the athletics, and more about which country can make their Olympics look the best to the world. A country like Russia has a lot larger problems that it should allocate $51 billion to, especially if they are trying to clear up their image.

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Is it possible to predict the number of medals each country will win in the Winter Olympics by using a combination of economic indicators?  Without economics, predicting the winners would involve an extensive amount of knowledge on numerous sports and athletes. By using an economic model, one does not need extensive knowledge about each sport. In a recent study, Madeleine Andreff and Wladimir Andreff tried to predict the number of medals a country could win in the Winter Olympics by using economics.

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The Olympics has long been the venue where a country is able to showcase itself to the world. Just six years ago China threw its coming out party with the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and this time around Russia is hoping to showcase its progress only a quarter century removed from Communism. Though one may expect this coming out party to be a grand opportunity to show the emergence of a country under capitalism it is shaping up to be a condemnation on how little Russia has come.

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With the lighting of the ceremonial torch in Sochi, Russia last Friday night, the 22nd Winter Olympic Games have officially begun. Beyond capturing the world's attention throughout the month of February, these Olympic Games, like other major sporting events, have profound economic and political effects that resonate throughout the entire international system. Therefore, as the world's eyes turn towards the showcase of some of the world's finest athleticism taking place in Sochi, this post will explore some of the less eye-catching, yet equally significant, aspects of events like the Sochi Olympics and their unique place within international markets and politics.

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Ukraine’s economic future is contingent on a key decision that will be made by government leaders in the next couple of weeks.  In short, the country’s leaders must decide whether or not to accept a free-trade and political-association agreement with the European Union.  If Ukraine passes on this agreement, it is likely that the country will become a part of the Russian-led Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.  This decision will undoubtedly shape Ukraine’s economic environment going forward, especially related to trade.

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Over the last 30 years, Russia has been the only gas supplier to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As the gas price and demand has dramatically increased in the Baltic States, the European Union (EU) is has made plans to subsidize a regional liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic States. These plans are designed to decrease the Baltic countries' energy dependence on Russia and to meet the continually increasing gas demand. However, two issues aroused along with the project: where to build the LNG terminal and how to ease the relationship with Russia.

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The Arctic Ocean has traditionally been covered in ice and very difficult to travel through with a ship. Currently the ocean is travelable for four months a year as polar ice caps melt due to global warming. One country taking advantage of the newly opened route is China. A Chinese shipping company, COSCO, sent a ship from the port of Dalian to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, a 3,380 mile route that would take just over 30 days.

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While Cyprus is experiencing economic woes and Turkey is finding its way out of a huge European debt crisis, the energy relationship between Cyprus and Turkey regarding gas and oil is causing stress for both countries. On Wednesday, Turkey announced the suspension of energy projects with Italian giant ENI because the company expanded the exploration for oil and gas to Cyprus. ENI’s decision on the project expansion in Cyprus has created hope of economic recovery Cyprus but it infuriated Turkey since the project would cut down the energy plan in Turkey.

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After an 18-year effort, the Russian Parliament has finally approved the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. While the other nations of the W.T.O. had agreed to Russia's entry in December, the acceptance still required a majority vote in Russia's lower house of Parliament, known as the Duma. What could have been a routine acceptance, since President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party controls the Duma, was interrupted by strong opposition by the unusually vocal Communist Party. As the ratification dragged on, Russia's economic minister Andrei Belousov warned lawmakers that the agreement reached towards the end of 2011 would expire if not ratified by the mid-July deadline. This sparked a vote by the Duma, which voted 238 to 208 in favor of joining, with one abstention.

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In today’s blog post for the Global Real Estate Series, we will be looking at the commercial market for real estate, including key aspects of the industry as well as future outlooks. The market for commercial real estate is comprised of office, industrial, and retail properties that are intended to generate a profit, either from capital gain or from rental income. Global commercial real estate markets have seen much improved growth recently, up from the lows of a few years ago.

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When people think of online shopping today, paying for goods or services via the internet usually comes to mind. However, in Russia this is not the case. More than 80 percent of transactions at Russian online megastores are in cash. Russian customers are not very comfortable with online transactions so businesses in Russia have developed alternatives for the online shopping model.

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As wheat prices rise due to insufficient global supply, the big question is how concerned should we be about the high prices? Wheat is the latest agricultural commodity to raise costs. Wheat prices have risen 50% since last June, and prices are the highest since 1973. This is due to droughts and fires destroying crops in Russia, who is the third-largest wheat exporter in the world.

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Seasonal rains and high global temperatures have caused many problems for the agricultural industry this year. Many countries rely on agricultural investments for income to meet global food production demands, making this a hard year for many regions. Food insecurity is an increasing problem throughout the world. Food production has been greatly affected by climate change as both heavy rains and dry fields have taken their toll on agriculture.

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The BRICs marketsBrazil, Russia, India and China – have survived the global economic crisis quite well, emerging even stronger than before. These counties have large surpluses in international trade as well as reserves in foreign currency, which really helped in the last downturn. They are on pace to equal the G7 in size by 2032, seven years earlier than originally predicted.

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Do you want to go out to eat? People around the world are saying “yes” to this answer, but are finding different venues to satisfy their hunger. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that 20% of the world’s food venues are street vendors! Did you know that of the 10 largest markets in the world in the food services industry, five are in East Asia? The industry is making some major shifts which are also specific to geographic location.

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Unfortunately, the global economic crisis was not biased when it struck industries across the world.  Driven by high-rolling, high-ego aficionados, the art industry was impacted more than one would have expected.  With artworks ranging from just $500,000 to well into the millions of dollars, buyers who take interest in these unique items also felt the burn from the instability of the world markets and significant decrease in personal wealth.  As a matter of fact, in 2007 the art market was valued at $65 billion, down from $113 billion just five years before.  Today it is estimated to be as low as $50 billion.

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Much of Europe is heavily-reliant on Russian pipeline gas to satisfy its energy needs-- However, this could change fairly soon. Oil companies and private investors are carefully weighing the initiatives which may be set forth following the 2009 Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum. The Black Sea is home to a wealth of unconventional oil and gas resources which could possibly rival Russia in the sheer volume of output and usage.

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Russia has endured a long courtship period with the World Trade Organization - 16 years of talks and counting - yet official membership has always remained just out of reach. There are currently 153 members in the WTO, ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe. Russia is now the only BRIC country not to join, and is by far the largest economy of all the world’s non-members.

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“Bailout” has become an all-too-familiar word as of late, but a Russian auto industry bailout brings an interesting (though not entirely positive) twist to the dreaded word. The goal of this particular bailout is aimed more at social stability than in creating a leaner and more competitive industry for the future. The Russian bailout will focused ensuring employment of autoworkers by avoiding layoffs - in spite of plummeting demand.