Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of "irresponsibility" as he criticised its primary role in the economic and financial turmoil that has undermined the foundations of global capitalism across the world.
The Russian Prime Minister's remarks yesterday came after several European leaders, including the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the spiralling crisis started by toxic housing debts in the US raised questions about the "Anglo-Saxon" way of doing business.
"Everything that is happening in the economic and financial sphere has started in the US," Mr Putin told a government meeting in Moscow. "This is a real crisis that all of us are facing. And what is really sad is that we see an inability to take appropriate decisions. This is no longer irresponsibility on the part of some individuals, but irresponsibility of the whole system, which as you know, had pretensions to [global] leadership."
The Russian stock market has collapsed by 50 per cent from its peak last May as a result of the global uncertainty, coupled with investor nervousness following the Georgian crisis.
M. Sarkozy, speaking in Toulon a week ago, said: "A certain idea of globalisation is drawing to a close with the end of a financial capitalism that had imposed its logic on the whole economy and contributed to perverting it. The idea of the absolute power of the markets that should not be constrained by any rule, by any political intervention, was a mad idea. The idea that markets are always right was a mad idea." The German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück said "the US will lose its superpower status in the world financial system". He hesitated to predict the long-term consequences of the upheaval, which he described as "above all a US problem" but said: "The world financial system is becoming multipolar."
Leaders of developing countries have also lashed out at the US over what Gordon Brown called the first crisis of globalisation, in the light of the Bush administration's failure to swiftly put an end to the bloodletting in the financial markets. "The managers of big business took huge risks out of greed," said the Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose economy is highly dependent on US trade. "What happens in the United States will affect the entire world and, above all, small countries like ours."
Another ally of Mr Bush, the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, criticised Washington's failure to deal with the uncontrolled financial speculation. "The whole world has financed the United States, and I believe that they have a reciprocal debt with the planet," he said.
France and Germany are calling for greater EU intervention to regulate the markets, while Britain is wary of such a move. But Mr Brown used his UN speech last Friday to press for international regulators to set up "colleges" overseeing the megabanks with branches across the world.