President Vladimir Putin has managed democracy in a manner former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev must envy. Although the West hoped Gorbachev was a democratizer, he in fact was at most a soft moderate in a calcified totalitarian state. When democratic-like reforms were instituted, Gorbachev wailed in disbelief at his ""electorate's"" lack of patriotic discipline. The end result was nominal institutional change mixed with a tint of populism, swelling discontent from the right and left and a helpless Gorbachev alone in the middle, with only anachronistic Soviet rhetoric and Western sympathy to comfort his egress. Seventeen years later, Putin has accomplished what Gorbachev attempted to construct -- democratic centralism.
Vladimir Putin will not step down as president in 2008 nor will he need to change the Constitution -- and all discussion about such occurrences for the next two years, albeit necessary and useful, will have very little chance of affecting actual events.