Russian government projections for 1999 put gross national product at about 3.8 trillion rubles. At the current exchange rate of 17.45 rubles to the dollar, that comes to US$217 billion, or about US$1,450 per capita. If the ruble falls by another 30 percent next year, which could well happen if inflation takes its predicted course, GNP calculated in dollars could fall to around US$150 billion, or about US$1,000 per capita. By contrast, per capita GNP in the United States will be around US$32,600.

According to World Bank data cited in Paul Kennedy’s “Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” in 1980 per capita GNP in the Soviet Union was US$4,550, or 40 percent of the U.S. figure for that year of US$11,360. Now the ratio is about 4 percent. There are many reasons for the continued appeal of communism in Russia, but for those like Karl Marx or James Carville who believe that economics determines politics, these numbers are sufficient.