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Tsar Putin Returns

After months of speculation about whether or not current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would go to battle over reelection, the question has now been settled: Medvedev will bow to his master and not seek reelection, instead swapping spots with the Russian strongman who has run the country for the last decade. It is likely that Medvedev was considering running, but the fact that most of his chief ministers were likely to back Putin probably changed his mind (as well as Putin critics sometimes seeming to turn up radioactive on their deathbed). Indeed, the former KGB's tactics of ruling are as ruthless as many of the other thugs to govern throughout history, but just a bit more targeted. He does not engage in wanton cruelty over his subjects or complete oppression; he has figured out how to control his country through the public affairs while seeming to leave the private ones alone. Yes, it means that a journalist or a former spy or an activist lawyer need to die sometimes, or that an occasional billionaire oligarch or political rival need to be tossed in jail for a while, but the violence is not wanton enough to cause the Western world or the Russian people to really do more than sometimes express some displeasure with it all. Between the West just watching Russian tanks roll into Georgia without lifting a finger and the United States quickly capitulating on the new START treaty with Russia and Europe's newfound subordination to Russia due to energy resources, Putin has little to fear as he continues to mold his fiefdom in whatever image he may.

And an image it is, alone. Putin is feeding Russian dreams and ambitions and aspirations for greatness. He represents a strongman, a hero, someone bringing them the glory of their old empire. He is willing to stand up to and challenge the United States. Beneath the image, though, right through the surface, there are cracks. Russia has real problems, both economic and political, and its military advancement may not be able to keep up with any future arms race between the United States and China. Additionally, now that it seems we will have to deal directly with Putin again for the next decade or so, there is the question of what happens after the Tsar is dead. This is not to say that Russia will no longer be relevant on the world stage; on the contrary, the sheer fact that it maintains an arsenal powerful enough to wipe out most human life makes it relevant, regardless of all its other importance to world politics. But the Russian people, I think, will find life a little less enjoyable under Putin 2.0 than they did in the first season, and I hope that they eventually decide to do something about it.
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And Putin wants to join the Euro.

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