was customarily included in lists of the world’s most powerful people. Throughout a nearly 16-year reign, Putin’s brand of leadership—full of swagger, bare-chested photo ops, and tiger hunting—has brought him wide popularity at home and even grudging admiration abroad, a fact that was made clear by his selection as Time’s 2007 Person of the Year. “[He] makes a decision and he executes it—quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader,” said former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani on Fox News last year. After Putin’s 2009 speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies told me, “He is a thug, but we have no option other than to deal with him and his cronies. He is just too powerful.”
Last year alone, the ruble lost half its value, food prices rose 23%, and inflation accelerated to 16.7%. The Kremlin has had to deploy massive resources to bail out some of the nation’s largest companies and banks. Standard & Poor’s in January cut the country’s credit rating to junk. The continuing...
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