Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Russia on collision course as Putin plots return

(Reuters) - Vladimir Putin is all but certain to return to Russia's presidency with the same swagger, bravado and fighting talk against the West as when he entered the Kremlin 12 years ago.

But the country he will get the chance to lead for another six years after an election on Sunday has changed, and he is on a collision course with Western powers and a newly confident middle class demanding a freer and fairer Russia.

"The way he is conducting the campaign at the moment sends a signal reading 'I am sure of myself, I am the strongest of them all, I control everything, I am the leader, nothing has changed.' But this is not true," said Maria Lipman, a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Centre think tank.

A few months ago, the former KGB spy was a safe bet to win two more terms and rule until 2024, keeping him in power almost as long of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

All that changed when he bungled the announcement of his presidential bid on September 24 and allegations of fraud in a parliamentary poll on December 4 soured the mood, triggering the biggest opposition protests since he rose to power.

He may now struggle to see out even one full term. Read More