The Russian government is taking a risky political gamble by allowing the ruble to fall along with the price of oil. The Russian currency dropped to a record low for a third day, continuing its most severe decline since 1998, when the country defaulted on its internal debt. The freefall will soon affect consumption, and even the less affluent citizens who form President Vladimir Putin's support base could become restless.

At first glance, the ruble's recent depreciation follows the trajectory of oil prices, which dropped sharply after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries declined to cut output last week. Other oil-producer currencies have suffered, too. Yet the ruble's slump is deepest of all.

Unlike Nigeria, which has defended its currency, Russia has barely intervened. There were reports of central bank activity during Monday's trading session, and the ruble rebounded slightly after dropping more than 9 percent in the morning, but it was still down almost 6 percent for the day.