What began as a downturn in the US housing sector in summer 2007 mushroomed into a global financial crisis by September 2008—the most severe since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Initially, Western European governments, including the Russian government, blamed the crisis on US financial excesses and felt that their economies would remain immune from the contagion. However, this proved to be a false comfort. The subprime-induced contagion spread to Europe with unprecedented ferocity, rapidly engulfing the entire continent. This essay explains why Russia, deemed to be the most immune, succumbed so quickly to the contagion, and includes lessons policymakers can learn from the Russian experience to better insulate their economies from the vagaries of the global financial markets.

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