Just a little data point

I have been planning on making a quick trip to Russia, which for reasons unrelated to my comments here will not occur. But in preparing to apply for my visa at the Russian embassy in Beijing, I was just adjusting to the quite amazingly thorough visa form ("List every educational institution you have ever attended... Give name, supervisor, and supervisor's telephone number for everywhere you have worked for the last XX years...") when I encountered the real problem. US cash!

Depending on how quickly I needed the visa, the fee would be $150 (for five-day service) or $300 (same-day). But the fee had to be in cash, U.S. greenbacks, and not just any old dollars but "new bills with the watermark and large portrait." Hmmm.

Since I have about $28 in US cash with me in China, I was asking American friends for help ... when I recently learned that the policy has changed. No more Yankee dollars! Only Chinese RMB accepted -- no word on required newness. And at a punitive exchange rate too. (The rapidly-sinking dollar is worth just about 7 Chinese RMB now, so $300 would be 2100RMB. But the Russians are multiplying it at the rate that applied more than a year ago, 7.8 to 1. So the "$300" visa now costs 2340RMB, or about $334.)

Of course the exchange rate is not the issue. It's the "your money is no good here" aspect that I found interesting. Another round in the Bush-Putin war of nerves? Just a scheme to profit on exchange rate arbitrage? A sign of respect to their local Chinese hosts? Or maybe the Russians are reading the U.S. financial pages too?