NEW YORK: For the Russian economy, it's all over but the doomsday, and that's what traders prepared for Thursday by pushing the Dow down 257 points -- and the NASDAQ 81 -- by the close of trading. "The Russian economy is in total collapse," says TIME business reporter Bernard Baumohl, "and although U.S. traders have very little direct exposure to it, they're very nervous about what could happen to Europe, Asia and Latin America if the political system goes with it."
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Not to mention a return to the days of brinksmanship and bomb shelters. "Traders look at Russia, and they see Indonesia with nukes," says Baumohl. "The same failing economy, the same social unrest. But with Russia, there's that spectre that if the wrong people come to power, we've got the Cold War all over again." Baumohl looks at Viktor Chernomyrdin's return to the Kremlin as a "soft coup" -- but what comes next could be very, very hard.