CNNMoney.com – On a gloomy morning in early August, more than a month before Wall Street and the world’s financial system seized up, a senior aide to Iceland’s Prime Minister paid a visit to the Russian embassy in Reykjavík to make a controversial request: Bail us out.
Iceland had one of the richest economies in Europe, but it had a problem. Its three main private sector banks had become so large that their assets amounted to more than ten times the gross domestic product of the country – and there were signs that they might run into trouble.
Iceland had asked its traditional allies for help, but to its consternation, its pleas to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank went unheeded. Instead, the answer was always, "Ask the International Monetary Fund" – a drastic step Iceland didn’t want to take.