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China’s Fateful Choice on Ties With Russia

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In Moscow, Ikea has closed its doors. Exxon Mobil Corp. is pulling out of an oil-and-gas operation on Sakhalin Island. Apple Inc., Boeing Co. and Volkswagen AG are joining the exodus from a Russian economy on the brink of ruin. About half of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves are frozen abroad, and the ruble is in free fall.

After worrying about the effectiveness of economic sanctions, some Western analysts now fret that financial devastation combined with military setbacks could push President Vladimir Putin into a corner and provoke a nuclear catastrophe. They’re asking: Is there an off-ramp for Russia?