In hindsight, the crash of August 1998 that compelled Russia to brutally devalue the ruble seems to have acted as a catharsis. Six years on, the country is faring much better. The collapse of the ruble made Russian products more competitive. What is more, the recovery in oil prices as from 1999 and their continued high levels have enabled Russia to hold its head up. Vladimir Putin's policies have helped strengthen his country. In May 2001, Putin convened Russia's main oligarchs to a meeting at the Kremlin to sign a "pact of non-aggression". The agreement was that the spoils of privatization would go untouched in return for entrepreneurs and industrialists keeping out of politics. The pact led to a normalization of the economy. Nevertheless, Russia remains largely dependent on oil prices: only by diversifying its economy will the world's biggest country be able to look to the future with confidence.