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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cracks and 2nd Guesses For Putin 10 Years Later

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August marks 10 years since Vladimir Putin appeared on the country’s national stage to become the sum of Russia’s politics, a fixation for the country’s national psyche and a public figure of international scale.

Putin has ruled Russia with a steady hand, defeating a militant Chechen insurgency, bringing baron-governors to heel, gradually rebuilding the functioning state and restoring the people’s confidence in the country and its future.

Putin returned Russia to the table of global politics as a serious player who can make its voice heard in ways often devoid of diplomatic niceties.

Domestically, he squeezed out his political opponents to the margins of Russian politics — driving some die-hards into exile or even prison — while engineering a transition to a 1 1/2 party system that leaves no room for radical opponents of the regime but tolerates significant dissent.

This allowed Putin to engineer a brilliant political succession to one of his closest friends and loyalists, President Dmitry Medvedev.

Rather than departing to the national hall of fame as one of the greatest Russian leaders, Putin chose to stay in politics as a prime minister, a position where his climb to the pinnacle of power began 10 years ago.

Life has come full circle for Putin. In 2009, just as in 1999, he is fighting a deepening economic recession, dwindling government revenues and soaring budgetary deficits, a new militant insurgency in the Caucasus and technological disasters on a massive scale.  

In addition, there are signs of cracks developing in his relationship with Medvedev, who has begun to assert his power and is pushing his own political agenda, which at times might conflict with Putin’s.

Internationally, he is still a powerful public figure who retains enormous influence, particularly in the former Soviet Union and in Western Europe. But he is being quietly nudged away as “a man of the past” by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which has placed all its bets on Medvedev.

In Russia, Putin is still viewed by many as the nation’s savior who needs to return to the presidency to steady the rolling ship again.

But should he really? One wonders if Putin, looking back, does not view his decision to stay on as prime minister as a miscalculation that can now destroy his otherwise truly great legacy.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government-relations and PR company.