WORLD: DEFIANT PUTIN SIGNS TREATY MAKING CRIMEA PART OF RUSSIA
Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine. In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo's independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said. "You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow," he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had "crossed the line" over Ukraine and behaved "irresponsibly." He said Ukraine's new leaders, in power since the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month, included "neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites." Putin said Crimea's disputed referendum vote on Sunday, held under Russian military occupation, had shown the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia after 60 years as part of the Ukrainian republic. To the Russian national anthem, Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty on making Crimea part of Russia. During his address, Putin was interrupted by applause at least 30 times. "In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia," Putin said.
ALSO: 'New Cold War' reflects global uncertainties
TOKYO -- The world has been restless since the beginning of the year. A series of political and economic tensions are spreading across the globe, and no one can anticipate how they will play out. Russia's de facto seizure of Crimea, in southern Ukraine, is an example. U.S. President Barack Obama as well as the leaders of six of the seven other G-8 industrialized nations have condemned Russia's violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. The G-8's membership -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., U.S. and Russia -- has remained the same since 1991. That is when the old Soviet Union joined the club. Now more than two decades later, Russia's intervention in Ukraine has provoked much criticism from the U.S. and Europe. News outlets are referring to it as a "New Cold War." Although Russian President Vladimir Putin was well aware that his Crimea actions would taint his reputation around the world, he had little choice but to take a hard-line approach. Ukraine is so deeply intertwined into Russia's national interests that it cannot be ignored. Putin, who is serving his third term in office, is committing himself to creating an Eurasian Union, a Russian version of the European Union, by expanding its customs alliance with Kazakhstan and Belarus -- members of the former Soviet Union -- into a huge, unified economic bloc that allows for the free movement of capital and people. His ultimate goal is to combine his proposed Eurasian economic bloc with the EU to build a free trade sphere covering countries and regions from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Ukraine plays a key role in this vision. If Putin cannot get it on his side, the scheme will simply fall apart. President Obama on March 6 imposed temporary economic sanctions on Russia, but international affairs experts see the sanctions as a squirt-gun response. Russia will not be affected.
ALSO: World democrats (CDI) hit China’s takeover of Scarborough
The Philippines, bid to assert ownership of Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in Masinloc, Zamabales, got a big boost after the Centris Democrat International (CDI) unanimously approved a resolution condemning China’s forcible takeover and occupation of the disputed shoal. In a resolution, the association of world democrats said China’s takeover of the shoal possessed and occupied by the Philippines as part of its continental shelf and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an open and brazen breach of its treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and other international laws. Former Senate President Edgardo Angara, a member of the Executive Council and Vice President for Asia Pacific of CDI, said China’s takeover of Panatag Shoal was one of five issues he raised before the CDI during the group’s recent meeting in Brussels. “This is a very significant diplomatic move.For the first time, we have a positive, constructive international expression of support for our position. This is a positive development,” Angara said in a statement issued after the approval of the resolution which he drafted and submitted to the CDI.
ALSO: Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for 9/11 attacks, says son-in-law
NEW YORK – Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for masterminding 9/11 on the night of the attacks, his son-in-law said Wednesday as he unexpectedly testified at his federal trial in New York on terror charges. Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who married bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, recounted a dramatic meeting with the jubilant Al-Qaeda chief in an Afghanistan cave complex on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. “Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it,” Bin Laden declared, according to Abu Ghaith. The 48-year-old from Kuwait told the court he warned Bin Laden that he would feel the full force of America’s wrath following the attacks on New York and Washington. Bin Laden replied simply by telling him: “You’re being too pessimistic.” Within months, the US-led invasion had ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was forced onto the run. A 10-year manhunt ended when the Al-Qaeda leader was shot dead by US Navy SEALs during a daring raid on his hideout in Pakistan in 2011. Abu Ghaith had had not been expected to testify during his trial where he is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans and conspiracy to support terrorists. He faces life imprisonment if convicted by a jury at the trial, which is expected to conclude within days. Speaking in Arabic, translated into English by an interpreter, Abu Ghaith also denied trying to recruit people for Al-Qaeda, as prosecutors have alleged.
ALSO: ABOUT VLADIMIR PUTIN
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: born 7 October 1952) has been the President of Russia since 7 May 2012. He previously served as President from 2000 to 2008, and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. During that last term as Prime Minister, he was also the Chairman of the United Russia political party. For 16 years Putin served as an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he retired to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg in 1991. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin's administration where he rose quickly, becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999 when Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly. Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election and was re-elected in 2004. Because of constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008. Putin's first presidency was marked by high economic growth: the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal). As Russia's president, Putin and the Federal Assembly passed into law a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes. As Prime Minister, Putin oversaw large scale military and police reform. His energy policy has affirmed Russia's position as an energy superpower. Putin supported high-tech industries such as the nuclear and defence industries. A rise in foreign investment contributed to a boom in such sectors as the automotive industry. Putin has cultivated a "he-man" and "super hero" image and is a pop cultural icon in Russia with many commercial products named after him. He is currently ranked as the world's most powerful person according to Forbes.
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Defiant Putin signs treaty making Crimea part of RussiaBy VLADIMIR SOLDATKIN and STEVE GUTTERMAN, ReutersMarch 18, 2014 8:53pm 0 10 0 11
MOSCOW, MARCH 24, 2014 (GMA NEWS NETWORK) Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine.
In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo's independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said.
"You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow," he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had "crossed the line" over Ukraine and behaved "irresponsibly."
He said Ukraine's new leaders, in power since the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month, included "neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites."
Putin said Crimea's disputed referendum vote on Sunday, held under Russian military occupation, had shown the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia after 60 years as part of the Ukrainian republic.
To the Russian national anthem, Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty on making Crimea part of Russia. During his address, Putin was interrupted by applause at least 30 times.
"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia," Putin said.
He thanked China for what he called its support, even though Beijing abstained on a UN resolution on Crimea that Moscow had to veto on its own, and said he was sure Germans would support the Russian people's quest for reunification, just as Russia had supported German reunification in 1990.
And he sought to reassure Ukrainians that Russia did not seek any further division of their country. Fears have been expressed in Kiev that Russia might move on the Russian-speaking eastern parts of Ukraine.
"Don't believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea," Putin said. "We do not want a partition of Ukraine. We do not need this."
Setting out Moscow's view of the events that led to the overthrow of Yanukovich in a popular uprising last month, Putin said the "so-called authorities" in Kiev had stolen power in a coup and opened the way for extremists who would stop at nothing.
Making clear Russia's concern at the possibility of the US-led NATO military alliance expanding into Ukraine, he declared: "I do not want to be welcomed in Sevastopol [Crimean home of Russia's Black Sea fleet] by NATO sailors."
Moscow's seizure of Crimea, denounced by the West as illegal and in breach of Ukraine's constitutions, has caused the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Before Putin's speech, Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, sought to reassure Moscow on two key areas of concern, saying in a televised address delivered in Russian that Kiev was not seeking to join NATO, the US-led military alliance, and would act to disarm Ukrainian nationalist militias.
On Monday, the United States and the European Union imposed personal sanctions on a handful of officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow's military seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, most of whose 2 million residents are ethnic Russians.
Russian politicians dismissed the sanctions as insignificant and a badge of honour. The State Duma, or lower house, adopted a statement urging Washington and Brussels to extend the visa ban and asset freeze to all its members.
Japan joined the mild Western sanctions on Tuesday, announcing the suspension of talks with Russia on investment promotion and visa liberalisation.
Russian forces took control of Crimea in late February following the toppling of Yanukovich after deadly clashes between riot police and protesters trying to overturn his decision to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia.
Despite strongly worded condemnations of the Crimean referendum, Western nations were cautious in their first practical steps against Moscow, seeking to leave the door open for a diplomatic solution.
Russian stocks gained another 2 percent after rallying strongly on Monday as investors noted the initial sanctions did not target businesses or executives. But the rouble fell 0.6 percent against the dollar and the euro.
In a sign of the negative impact of the crisis on the investment climate, Russia's state property agency said it may postpone major privatisation deals until the second half of the year.
US President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for the military seizure of Crimea, including Yanukovich, and two aides to Putin.
Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to resurrect as much as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership, was not on the blacklist.
EU foreign ministers agreed to subject 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to visa restrictions and asset freezes.
The US list targeted higher-profile Russian officials close to Putin while the EU went for mid-ranking officials and military commanders more directly involved on the ground.
Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the coming days if Russia formally annexes Crimea.
The EU also said its leaders would sign the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine on Friday, in a gesture of support for the fragile coalition in Kiev.
Highlighting rifts in the EU, member state Austria offered on Tuesday to mediate between Moscow and the West.
Putin has declared that Russia has the right to defend, by military force if necessary, Russian citizens and Russian speakers living in former Soviet republics, raising concerns that Moscow may intervene elsewhere.
Putin has repeatedly accused the new leadership in Kiev of failing to protect Russian-speakers from violent Ukrainian nationalists. Ukraine's government has accused Moscow of staging provocations in Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine to justify military intervention.
In a symbolic gesture, Askyonov announced on Twitter that Crimea would switch to Moscow time from March 30, putting it two hours ahead of the rest of Ukraine.
In the Crimean capital Simferopol, the local government and businesses set about preparing for the switch to Russian rule.
Banks scrambled to introduce the rouble as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia, although the switch could take place at the end of the month after March pensions and salaries are cleared, banking sources said.
The pan-European organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe cancelled a meeting to discuss sending a monitoring mission to Ukraine because the 57 members are deadlocked. — Reuters
FROM NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW ONLINE
'New Cold War' reflects global uncertainties March 11, 2014 1:00 pm JST YOICHI TAKITA, Nikkei senior staff writer
TOKYO -- The world has been restless since the beginning of the year. A series of political and economic tensions are spreading across the globe, and no one can anticipate how they will play out.
Russia's de facto seizure of Crimea, in southern Ukraine, is an example. Pro-Russian forces on Feb. 27 took control of Crimea's parliament and administration buildings. U.S. President Barack Obama as well as the leaders of six of the seven other G-8 industrialized nations have condemned Russia's violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and threatened to not participate in a summit scheduled to take place June 4-5 in Sochi unless the situation is addressed.
With all preparatory meetings leading up the event also up in the air, it remains unknown whether the G-8 leaders can peacefully meet in the Olympics-host city along the Black Sea.
The G-8's membership -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., U.S. and Russia -- has remained the same since 1991. That is when the old Soviet Union joined the club. It and the U.S. had signed a statement declaring an end to the Cold War two years earlier.
Now more than two decades later, Russia's intervention in Ukraine has provoked much criticism from the U.S. and Europe. News outlets are referring to it as a "New Cold War."
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin was well aware that his Crimea actions would taint his reputation around the world, he had little choice but to take a hard-line approach. Ukraine is so deeply intertwined into Russia's national interests that it cannot be ignored.
Putin, who is serving his third term in office, is committing himself to creating an Eurasian Union, a Russian version of the European Union, by expanding its customs alliance with Kazakhstan and Belarus -- members of the former Soviet Union -- into a huge, unified economic bloc that allows for the free movement of capital and people. He made the proposal in 2011 when he was prime minister.
His ultimate goal is to combine his proposed Eurasian economic bloc with the EU to build a free trade sphere covering countries and regions from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Ukraine plays a key role in this vision. If Putin cannot get it on his side, the scheme will simply fall apart.
Putin probably opted to play hardball over Ukraine after realizing the collapse of the country's pro-Russian government, led by Viktor Yanukovych, could end his Eurasian dream. The consequence is ironic. Eurasia is divided between Russia, which is resorting to military power, and the U.S. and Europe, which are trying to broaden their economic influence.
Ukraine's new government, set up following the political upheaval, has said the country's external debt stands at $140 billion, or 80% of its nominal gross domestic product. It has also called for $35 billion in financial assistance over the next two years to rebuild its beleaguered economy, securing 11 billion euros ($15.28 billion) from the EU.
Ukraine's debt problem could boomerang on Russia. Putin has admitted that Russian banks have extended $28 billion in loans to Ukraine. If the military tensions continue and Ukraine goes into default, Russian lenders and businesses with operations there will be in big trouble.
Some international politics experts argue that China may take advantage of the rise of the New Cold War by extending a helping hand to Russia's isolated neighbor. But this is simply not viable. Pro-democracy protests and ethnic liberation movements can spread like wildfire, as they did when democratization waves engulfed Eastern Europe in 1989 and the Middle East in 2011. Beijing is probably growing wary of Ukraine; it has its own unhappy ethnic minorities.
China has long managed to prevent sensitive domestic issues from coming to the fore by maintaining high economic growth. But a slowdown in the country's economy and the revelations of financial distortions through runaway shadow banking activities are beginning to cast a pall over the society.
The world is also paying attention to China's snowballing military spending.
In addition, it is looking at the People's Bank of China. The country's central bank conducted dollar-buying operations to keep the yuan artificially low just before the National People's Congress, a yearly parliamentary session, convened March 5. The move is fueling skepticism toward China and could be interpreted in several ways. Some see it as an attempt to contain speculators' yuan-buying; others say Beijing is trying to stimulate exports by devaluing its currency.
The G-8 regime hit the skids when the global economy faltered in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown. To cope with a variety of issues, the G-20 framework was created. The larger club of nations came up with solutions for a while, but China and other emerging countries in the new system are now hitting a wall.
G-20 finance ministers agreed at a Sydney gathering last month to lift their combined gross domestic product by 2%, or $2 trillion, over the next five years. The commitment requires member countries to come up with sensible economic growth plans and carry them out in a stable fashion.
But the problem is that major G-20 countries will hold national elections this year. The U.S., which will have midterm elections in November, is growing more inward-looking.
President Obama on March 6 imposed temporary economic sanctions on Russia, but international affairs experts see the sanctions as a squirt-gun response.
Russia will not be affected.
FROM MANILA BULLETIN
World democrats hit China’s takeover of Scarborough by Mario Casayuran March 23, 2014 (updated)
MANILA -The Philippines, bid to assert ownership of Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in Masinloc, Zamabales, got a big boost after the Centris Democrat International (CDI) unanimously approved a resolution condemning China’s forcible takeover and occupation of the disputed shoal.
In a resolution, the association of world democrats said China’s takeover of the shoal possessed and occupied by the Philippines as part of its continental shelf and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an open and brazen breach of its treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and other international laws.
World democrats said China’s takeover of the shoal possessed and occupied by the Philippines as part of its continental shelf and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an open and brazen breach of its treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and other international laws.
Former Senate President Edgardo Angara, a member of the Executive Council and Vice President for Asia Pacific of CDI, said China’s takeover of Panatag Shoal was one of five issues he raised before the CDI during the group’s recent meeting in Brussels.
“This is a very significant diplomatic move.
For the first time, we have a positive, constructive international expression of support for our position. This is a positive development,” Angara said in a statement issued after the approval of the resolution which he drafted and submitted to the CDI.
Both the Philippines and the China are at odds over ownership of some islands or shoals in the West Philippine Sea.
Angara said more than 60 democratic countries in the world want China and other claimant countries to pursue their territorial claims according to the rule of law and principles of international law.
“This is a very positive response from the democratic world,” Angara added.
The CDI resolution also:
“Denounces China’s unilateral, forcible and violent takeover of the resource-rich islets and marine sanctuary contrary to recognized international law and rules of international conduct.
“Recalls history’s destructive wars began when democratic nations stood silent in the face of unlawful occupations of other nations’ territory and remembers these lessons to condemn territorial encroachments wherever they occur.
“Calls on China to respect its treaty obligations under the UN Charter, the UNCLOS, and generally-accepted principles on international law.
“Strongly urges China to pursue peaceful and internationally-sanctioned rules on dispute resolution to remove rising tensions in the region and seek peaceful rules-based solutions of the conflicting claims.”
Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for 9/11 attacks, says son-in-law Agence France-Presse 9:05 am | Thursday, March 20th, 2014 17 1371
NEW YORK – Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for masterminding 9/11 on the night of the attacks, his son-in-law said Wednesday as he unexpectedly testified at his federal trial in New York on terror charges.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who married bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, recounted a dramatic meeting with the jubilant Al-Qaeda chief in an Afghanistan cave complex on the night of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it,” Bin Laden declared, according to Abu Ghaith.
The 48-year-old from Kuwait told the court he warned Bin Laden that he would feel the full force of America’s wrath following the attacks on New York and Washington.
Bin Laden replied simply by telling him: “You’re being too pessimistic.”
Within months, the US-led invasion had ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was forced onto the run.
A 10-year manhunt ended when the Al-Qaeda leader was shot dead by US Navy SEALs during a daring raid on his hideout in Pakistan in 2011.
Abu Ghaith had had not been expected to testify during his trial where he is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans and conspiracy to support terrorists.
He faces life imprisonment if convicted by a jury at the trial, which is expected to conclude within days.
Speaking in Arabic, translated into English by an interpreter, Abu Ghaith also denied trying to recruit people for Al-Qaeda, as prosecutors have alleged.
“There is no one recruiting, but Osama Bin Laden. My intention was not recruiting anyone,” he said.
And, asked by his lawyer if he ever wanted to kill Americans, he responded “No.”
“My intention was to deliver a message I believed in,” he said, denouncing the oppression of Muslims.
“Teaching and preaching”
Presenting himself as an imam, he said he went to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in June 2001 because he had a “serious desire to get to know the new Islamic government.”
His other aim was “teaching and preaching,” he said, adding that was something he didn’t accomplish.
Clad in a suit with an open-collared shirt, the balding suspect sporting a salt-and-pepper beard admitted having recorded several videos at the request of bin Laden, who, he said, summoned him after learning he was a Kuwaiti imam.
He said he had never met Richard Reid, a British man who tried to explode a bomb hidden in his shoes on a Paris-Miami flight in December 2001, three months after the 9/11 attacks.
He said he learned of the plot after the fact, through media reports, while he was in Iran.
Abu Ghaith is most famous for appearing in a video with bin Laden the day after the 9/11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The US government said Abu Ghaith, in the video, warned the United States of a large army forming against it and that the attacks would be relentless.
This speech, Abu Ghaith testified, was based on “quotes and points” established by bin Laden.
Abu Ghaith is the highest-profile alleged Al-Qaeda member to face trial in a US federal court rather than at Guantanamo Bay, which the White House has promised to close.
FROM WIKIPEDIA: ABOUT VLADIMIR PUTIN
Vladimir Putin hugs a Bulgarian shepherd dog, after receiving it as a present from Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boiko Borisov in Sofia, on November 13, 2010.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: born 7 October 1952) has been the President of Russia since 7 May 2012.
He previously served as President from 2000 to 2008, and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. During that last term as Prime Minister, he was also the Chairman of the United Russia political party.
For 16 years Putin served as an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he retired to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg in 1991.
He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin's administration where he rose quickly, becoming Acting President on 31 December 1999 when Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly.
Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election and was re-elected in 2004. Because of constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008.
Dmitry Medvedev won the 2008 presidential election and appointed Putin as Prime Minister, beginning a period of so-called "tandemocracy".
In September 2011, following a change in the law extending the presidential term from four years to six, Putin announced that he would seek a third, non-consecutive term as President in the 2012 presidential election, an announcement which led to large-scale protests in many Russian cities. He won the election in March 2012 and is serving a six-year term.
During Putin's first premiership and presidency (1999–2008), real incomes increased by a factor of 2.5, real wages more than tripled; unemployment and poverty more than halved, and the Russians' self-assessed life satisfaction rose significantly.
Putin's first presidency was marked by high economic growth: the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal).
As Russia's president, Putin and the Federal Assembly passed into law a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes.
As Prime Minister, Putin oversaw large scale military and police reform. His energy policy has affirmed Russia's position as an energy superpower. Putin supported high-tech industries such as the nuclear and defence industries. A rise in foreign investment contributed to a boom in such sectors as the automotive industry.
Putin has cultivated a "he-man" and "super hero" image and is a pop cultural icon in Russia with many commercial products named after him. He is currently ranked as the world's most powerful person according to Forbes.
The ancestry of Vladimir Putin has been described as a mystery with no records surviving of any ancestors of any people with the surname "Putin" beyond his grandfather Spiridon Ivanovich. His autobiography, Ot Pervogo Litsa (English: In the First Person), which is based on Putin's interviews, speaks of humble beginnings, including early years in a communal apartment in Leningrad.
Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law.
His PhD thesis was titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations" and it argued that Russian economic success would depend on creating national energy champions.
It has been suggested that most of the thesis was plagiarized from a paper by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. While at university he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and remained a member until the party was dissolved in December 1991.
Also at the University he met Anatoly Sobchak who later played an important role in Putin's career. Anatoly Sobchak was at the time an Assistant Professor and lectured Putin's class on Business Law (khozyaystvennoye pravo).
Putin in KGB uniform
Putin joined the KGB in 1975 upon graduation, and underwent a year's training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. He then went on to work briefly in the Second Chief Directorate (counter-intelligence) before he was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where among his duties was the monitoring of foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad.
From 1985 to 1990, the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany. During that time, Putin was assigned to Directorate S, the illegal intelligence-gathering unit (the KGB's classification for agents who used falsified identities) where he was given cover as a translator and interpreter. One of Putin's jobs was to coordinate efforts with the Stasi to track down and recruit foreigners in Dresden, usually those who were enrolled at the Dresden University of Technology, in the hopes of sending them undercover in the United States. Despite this, Putin biographer Masha Gessen disputes the "KGB Spymaster" image that has been built around him and instead says that Dresden was essentially a backwater job that Putin himself resented:
Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB. Former agents estimate they spent three-quarters of their time writing reports. Putin's biggest success in his stay in Dresden appears to have been in...[contacting] a U.S. Army Sergeant, who sold them an unclassified Manual for 800 marks.
Following the collapse of the communist East German government, Putin was recalled to the Soviet Union and returned to Leningrad, where in June 1991 he assumed a position with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov. In his new position, Putin maintained surveillance on the student body and kept an eye out for recruits. It was during his stint at the university that Putin grew reacquainted with his former professor Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of Leningrad.
Putin resigned from the active state security services with the rank of lieutenant colonel on 20 August 1991 (with some attempts to resign made earlier), on the second day of the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin later explained his decision: "As soon as the coup began, I immediately decided which side I was on", though he also noted that the choice was hard because he had spent the best part of his life with "the organs".
Political career of Vladimir Putin Saint Petersburg administration (1990–1996) In May 1990, Putin was appointed as an advisor on international affairs to Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Then, on 28 June 1991, he became head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments. That Committee headed by Putin also registered business ventures.
Less than one year later, Putin was investigated by the city legislative council, and the investigators concluded that Putin had understated prices and permitted the export of metals valued at $93 million, in exchange for foreign food aid that never arrived. Despite the investigators' recommendation that Putin be fired, Putin remained head of the Committee for External Relations until 1996. From 1994 to 1996, Putin held several other political and governmental positions in Saint Petersburg.
Early Moscow career (1996–1999)
Putin as FSB director, 1 January 1998 In 1996, Mayor Anatoly Sobchak lost his bid for reelection in Saint Petersburg. Putin was called to Moscow and in June 1996 became a Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department (other languages) headed by Pavel Borodin.
He occupied this position until March 1997. During his tenure Putin was responsible for the foreign property of the state and organized transfer of the former assets of the Soviet Union and Communist Party to the Russian Federation.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton during the ‘roaring 90s’
On 26 March 1997, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin deputy chief of Presidential Staff, which he remained until May 1998, and chief of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Property Management Department (until June 1998).
On 27 June 1997, at the Saint Petersburg Mining Institute, guided by rector Vladimir Litvinenko, Putin defended his Candidate of Science dissertation in economics, titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations". This exemplified the custom in Russia for a rising young official to write a scholarly work in midcareer.
When Putin later became president, the dissertation became a target of plagiarism accusations by fellows at the Brookings Institution; though the allegedly plagiarised study was referenced, the Brookings fellows felt sure it constituted plagiarism albeit perhaps not "intentional". The dissertation committee denied the accusations.
On 25 May 1998, Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff for regions, replacing Viktoriya Mitina; and, on 15 July, was appointed Head of the Commission for the preparation of agreements on the delimitation of power of regions and the federal center attached to the President, replacing Sergey Shakhray. After Putin's appointment, the commission completed no such agreements, although during Shakhray's term as the Head of the Commission there were 46 agreements signed. Later, after becoming president, Putin canceled all those agreements.
On 25 July 1998, Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin head of the FSB (one of the successor agencies to the KGB), the position Putin occupied until August 1999. He became a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on 1 October 1998 and its Secretary on 29 March 1999.
First Premiership (1999)
On 9 August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, and later on that day was appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin also announced that he wanted to see Putin as his successor. Still later on that same day, Putin agreed to run for the presidency.
On 16 August, the State Duma approved his appointment as Prime Minister with 233 votes in favour (vs. 84 against, 17 abstained), while a simple majority of 226 was required, making him Russia's fifth PM in fewer than eighteen months.
On his appointment, few expected Putin, virtually unknown to the general public, to last any longer than his predecessors. He was initially regarded as a Yeltsin loyalist; like other prime ministers of Boris Yeltsin, Putin did not choose ministers himself, his cabinet being determined by the presidential administration.
Yeltsin's main opponents and would-be successors were already campaigning to replace the ailing president, and they fought hard to prevent Putin's emergence as a potential successor.
Putin's law-and-order image and his unrelenting approach to the Second Chechen War, soon combined to raise Putin's popularity and allowed him to overtake all rivals.
While not formally associated with any party, Putin pledged his support to the newly formed Unity Party, which won the second largest percentage of the popular vote (23.3%) in the December 1999 Duma elections, and in turn he was supported by it.
Acting Presidency (1999–2000)
Putin landing in Grozny in a Su-27 fighter jet, 20 March 2000
On 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the Constitution of Russia, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation. On assuming this role, Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya.
The first Presidential Decree that Putin signed, on 31 December 1999, was titled "On guarantees for former president of the Russian Federation and members of his family". This ensured that "corruption charges against the outgoing President and his relatives" would not be pursued. Later, on 12 February 2001, Putin signed a similar federal law which replaced the decree of 1999.
While his opponents had been preparing for an election in June 2000, Yeltsin's resignation resulted in the Presidential elections being held within three months, on 26 March 2000; Putin won in the first round with 53% of the vote.
First Presidential term (2000–2004)
The first major challenge to Putin's popularity came in August 2000, when he was criticized for his alleged mishandling of the Kursk submarine disaster. That criticism was largely because it was several days before he returned from vacation, and several more before he visited the scene.
Taking presidential oath beside Yeltsin, May 2000
Vladimir Putin was inaugurated president on 7 May 2000. He appointed Minister of Finance Mikhail Kasyanov as his Prime minister.
Between 2000 and 2004, Putin apparently won a power-struggle with the Russian oligarchs, reaching a 'grand-bargain' with them. This bargain allowed the oligarchs to maintain most of their powers, in exchange for their explicit support – and alignment with – his government.
A new group of business magnates, such as Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, Yury Kovalchuk, Sergey Chemezov, with close personal ties to Putin, also emerged.
Many in the Russian press and in the international media warned that the death of some 130 hostages in the special forces' rescue operation during the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis would severely damage President Putin's popularity.
However, shortly after the siege had ended, the Russian president was enjoying record public approval ratings – 83% of Russians declared themselves satisfied with Putin and his handling of the siege.
A few months before elections, Putin fired Prime Minister Kasyanov's cabinet and appointed Mikhail Fradkov to his place. Sergey Ivanov became the first civilian in Russia to take Defense Minister position.
In 2003, a referendum was held in Chechnya adopting a new constitution which declares the Republic as a part of Russia. Chechnya has been gradually stabilized with the establishment of the parliamentary elections and a regional government.
Throughout the war, Russia severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement. However, sporadic violence continued to occur throughout the North Caucasus.
Second Presidential term (2004–2008)
With George W. Bush at a pier along the Black Sea, in Sochi, 5 April 2008
On 14 March 2004, Putin was elected to the presidency for a second term, receiving 71% of the vote. The Beslan school hostage crisis took place in September 2004, in which hundreds died. In response, Putin took a variety of administrative measures.
In 2005, the National Priority Projects were launched to improve Russia's health care, education, housing and agriculture.
The continued criminal prosecution of Russia's then richest man, President of YUKOS company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for fraud and tax evasion was seen by the international press as a retaliation for Khodorkovsky's donations to both liberal and communist opponents of the Kremlin.
The government said that Khodorkovsky was corrupting a large segment of the Duma to prevent tax code changes such as taxes on windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion vehicles. Khodorkovsky was arrested, Yukos was bankrupted and the company's assets were auctioned at below-market value, with the largest share acquired by the state company Rosneft. The fate of Yukos was seen in the West as a sign of a broader shift of Russia towards a system of state capitalism.
A study by Bank of Finland's Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT) in 2008 found that state intervention had made a positive impact on the corporate governance of many companies in Russia: the governance was better in companies with state control or with a stake held by the government.
Putin was criticized in the West and also by Russian liberals for what many observers considered a wide-scale crackdown on media freedom in Russia.
On 7 October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who exposed corruption in the Russian army and its conduct in Chechnya, was shot in the lobby of her apartment building. The death of Politkovskaya triggered an outcry in Western media, with accusations that, at best, Putin has failed to protect the country's new independent media.
When asked about the Politkovskaya murder in his interview with the German TV channel ARD, Putin said that her murder brings much more harm to the Russian authorities than her writing.
By 2012 the performers of the murder were arrested and named Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev as a possible clients.
On 12 September 2007, Putin dissolved the government upon the request of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Fradkov commented that it was to give the President a "free hand" in the run-up to the parliamentary election. Viktor Zubkov was appointed the new prime minister.
In December 2007, United Russia won 64.24% of the popular vote in their run for State Duma according to election preliminary results. United Russia's victory in December 2007 elections was seen by many as an indication of strong popular support of the then Russian leadership and its policies.
In his last days in office Putin was reported to have taken a series of steps to re-align the regional bureaucracy to make the governors report to the prime minister rather than the president. Putin's office explained that "the changes... bear a refining nature and do not affect the essential positions of the system. The key role in estimating the effectiveness of activity of regional authority still belongs to President of the Russian Federation."
Second Premiership (2008–2012)
Putin was barred from a third term by the Constitution. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was elected his successor. On 8 May 2008, only a day after handing the presidency to Medvedev, Putin was appointed Prime Minister of Russia, maintaining his political dominance.
The Great Recession hit the Russian economy especially hard, interrupting the flow of cheap Western credit and investments. This coincided with tension in relationships with the EU and the US following the 2008 South Ossetia war, in which Russia defeated NATO ally Georgia.
However, the large financial reserves, accumulated in the Stabilization Fund of Russia in the previous period of high oil prices, alongside the strong management helped the country to cope with the crisis and resume economic growth since mid-2009.
The Russian government's anti-crisis measures have been praised by the World Bank, which said in its Russia Economic Report from November 2008: "prudent fiscal management and substantial financial reserves have protected Russia from deeper consequences of this external shock. The government's policy response so far—swift, comprehensive, and coordinated—has helped limit the impact."
Vladimir Putin with Dmitry Medvedev, March 2008 Putin has named the overcoming of consequences of the world economic crisis one of the two main achievements of his 2nd Premiership. The other named achievement was the stabilisation of the size of Russia's population between 2008–2011 following the long period of demographic collapse started in the 1990s.
At the United Russia Congress in Moscow on 24 September 2011, Medvedev officially proposed that Putin stand for the Presidency in 2012, an offer which Putin accepted.
Given United Russia's near-total dominance of Russian politics, many observers believed that Putin was all but assured of a third term. The move was expected to see Medvedev stand on the United Russia ticket in the parliamentary elections in December, with a goal of becoming Prime Minister at the end of his presidential term. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Putin published 7 articles to present his vision for the future.
After the parliamentary elections on 4 December 2011, tens of thousands Russians engaged in protests against alleged electoral fraud, the largest protests in Putin's time; protesters criticized Putin and United Russia and demanded annulment of the election results.
However, those protests, organized by the leaders of the Russian "non-systemic opposition", sparked the fear of a colour revolution in society, and a number of "anti-Orange" counter-protests (the name alludes to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) and rallies of Putin supporters were carried out, surpassing in scale the opposition protests.
Third Presidential term (2012–present)
Putin taking the presidential oath at his 3rd inauguration ceremony, 7 May 2012 On 4 March 2012, Putin won the 2012 Russian presidential elections in the first round, with 63.6% of the vote.
While efforts to make the elections transparent were publicized, including the usage of webcams in polling stations, the vote was criticized by the Russian opposition and by international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for procedural irregularities.
Anti-Putin protests took place during and directly after the presidential campaign. The most notorious protest was 21 February Pussy Riot performance, and subsequent trial. Also, an estimated 8,000–20,000 protesters gathered in Moscow on 6 May, when eighty people were injured in confrontations with police, and 450 were arrested, with another 120 arrests taking place the following day.
Putin's presidency was inaugurated in the Kremlin on 7 May 2012. On his first day as President, Putin issued 14 Presidential decrees, sometimes called in the media "May Decrees", including a lengthy one stating wide-ranging goals for the Russian economy. Other decrees concerned education, housing, skilled-labor training, relations with the European Union, the defense industry, inter-ethnic relations, and other policy areas dealt with in Putin's programme articles issued during the Presidential campaign.
In 2012 and 2013, Putin and the United Russia party backed stricter legislation against the LGBT community, in Saint Petersburg, Archangelsk and Novosibirsk; a law against "homosexual propaganda" (which prohibits such symbols as the rainbow flag as well as published works containing homosexual content) was adopted by State Duma in June 2013.
Responding to international concerns about Russia's legislation, Putin asked critics to note the law was a "ban on the propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality" and he stated that homosexual visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics should "leave the children in peace" but denied there was any "professional, career or social discrimination" against homosexuals in Russia. He publicly hugged openly bisexual iceskater Ireen Wust during the games.
Also in June 2013, Putin attended a televised rally of the All-Russia People's Front where he was elected head of the movement, which was set up in 2011.
According to journalist Steve Rosenberg, the movement is intended to "reconnect the Kremlin to the Russian people" and one day, if necessary, replace the increasingly unpopular United Russia party that currently backs Putin.
Intervention in Ukraine
Vladimir Putin speaks to the press on March 4 about the 2014 Crimean crisis.
Beginning on 27 February 2014, unidentified pro-Russian troops alleged to be local self-defense forces seized control of most of the Crimean peninsula in the southeastern area of Ukraine.
Amidst rising tensions in the region as part of the Ukrainian revolution and the aforementioned seizure —and as the newly installed government in Ukraine started to distance itself from Russia— Putin moved troops into the Crimea in order to protect its geopolitical interests in the region, including the Russian civilians and military already stationed there.
Putin insisted that Russian troop mobilization was done in order to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea, who comprise the majority of the population that work or reside in the peninsula.
The situation is confounded even further as Russia does not recognize the newly installed interim government in Ukraine and still considers ousted-President Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine's legitimate leader. Russia also claims that Yanukovych requested Russia to intervene in Ukraine militarily in order to maintain peace and order; an intervention that Putin would later categorize as "humanitarian" with Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations justifying it as a legitimate response to Yanukovych's request.
A Crimean status referendum was held on 16 March 2014, but only national referendums are legal under the Ukrainian Constitution. The outcome of the vote is to determine if the geographical and political borders of the Russian Federation are to be expanded for the first time under Putin's leadership after the dissolution of the USSR and its previous reallocation of national borders.
On 16 March 2014, David Herszenhornmarch writing for The New York Times reported the results of the referendum in an article titled "Crimea Votes to Secede From Ukraine as Russian Troops Keep Watch."
Writing from Simferopol the article stated that: "With thousands of heavily armed Russian troops occupying this perennially embattled peninsula, an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted on Sunday to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, resolutely carrying out a public referendum that Western leaders had declared illegal and vowed to punish with economic sanctions.
The outcome, in a region that shares a language and centuries of history with Russia, was a foregone conclusion even before exit polls showed more than 93 percent of voters favoring secession. Still, the result deepened the conflict over Ukraine, forcing the United States and its European allies to decide how swiftly and forcefully to levy threatened sanctions against Russian officials including top aides to President Vladimir V. Putin."
Putin's domestic policies, especially early in his first presidency, were aimed at creating a vertical power structure.
On 13 May 2000, he issued a decree putting the 89 federal subjects of Russia into seven administrative federal districts and appointed a presidential envoy responsible for each of those districts (whose official title is Plenipotentiary Representative).
On 13 May 2000, Putin introduced seven federal districts for administrative purposes. On 19 January 2010, the new 8th North Caucasian Federal District (shown here in purple) was split from Southern Federal District.
According to Stephen White, Russia under the presidency of Putin made it clear that it had no intention of establishing a "second edition" of the American or British political system, but rather a system that was closer to Russia's own traditions and circumstances.
Putin's administration has often been described as a "sovereign democracy". According to the proponents of that description, the government's actions and policies ought above all to enjoy popular support within Russia itself and not be determined from outside the country.
In July 2000, according to a law proposed by him and approved by the Federal Assembly of Russia, Putin gained the right to dismiss heads of the 89 federal subjects (there are presently several fewer federal subjects in Russia than there were in 2000).
In 2004, the direct election of those heads (usually called "governors") by popular vote was replaced with a system whereby they would be nominated by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures. This was seen by Putin as a necessary move to stop separatist tendencies and get rid of those governors who were connected with organised crime.
This and other government actions effected under Putin's presidency have been criticised by many independent Russian media outlets and Western commentators as anti-democratic.
In 2012, as proposed by Putin's successor Dmitry Medvedev, the direct election of governors was re-introduced.
During his first term in office, Putin moved to curb the political ambitions of some of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs, resulting in the exile or imprisonment of such people as Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky; other oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich and Arkady Rotenberg soon joined Putin's camp. Putin presided over an intensified fight with organised crime and terrorism that resulted in two times lower murder rates by 2011, as well as significant reduction in the numbers of terrorist acts by the late 2000s (decade).
Economic, industrial, and energy policies
Russian GDP since the end of the Soviet Union Under the Putin administration from 2001 to 2007, the economy made real gains of an average 7% per year, making it the 7th largest economy in the world in purchasing power. Russia's nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 6 fold, climbing from 22nd to 10th largest in the world.
In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of Russian SFSR in 1990, meaning it overcame the devastating consequences of the 1998 financial crisis and preceding recession in the 1990s.
During Putin's eight years in office, industry grew substantially, as did production, construction, real incomes, credit, and the middle class. Putin has also been praised for eliminating widespread barter and thus boosting the economy. Inflation remained a problem however.
In 2001, Putin obtained approval for a flat tax rate of 13%; the corporate rate of tax was also reduced from 35 percent to 24 percent; Small businesses also get better treatment.
The old system, with high tax rates, has been replaced by a new system where companies can choose either a 6-percent tax on gross revenue or a 15-percent tax on profits. The overall tax burden is lower in Russia than in most European countries.
A central concept in Putin's economic thinking was the creation of so-called National champions, vertically integrated companies in strategic sectors that are expected not only to seek profit, but also to "advance the interests of the nation". Examples of such companies include Gazprom, Rosneft and United Aircraft Corporation.
A fund for oil revenue allowed Russia to repay all of the Soviet Union's debts by 2005.
Payments from the fuel and energy sector accounted for nearly half of the federal budget's revenues. The large majority of Russia's exports are made up of raw materials and fertilizers, although exports as a whole accounted for only 8.7% of the GDP in 2007, compared to 20% in 2000.
After 18 years of trying, Russia joined the World Trade Organization on 22 August 2012. However, there were few immediate economic benefits evident from that WTO membership.
Under Putin, Russia strengthened its position as a key oil and gas supplier to much of Europe. Under Putin as President and Premier, most of the world's largest automotive companies opened plants in Russia, which Putin encouraged via tax incentives, as well as protectionist measures which discouraged imports.
In the decade following 2000, energy in Russia helped transform the country, especially oil and gas energy. This transformation promoted Russia's well-being and international influence, and the country was frequently described in the media as an energy superpower. Putin oversaw growing taxation of oil and gas exports which helped finance the budget, while the oil industry of Russia, production, and exports all significantly grew.
Putin sought to increase Russia's share of the European energy market by building submerged gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine and other countries which were often seen as non-reliable transit partners by Russia, especially following Russia-Ukraine gas disputes of the late 2000s (decade). Russia also undermined the rival pipeline project Nabucco by buying the Turkmen gas and redirecting it into Russian pipelines.
On the other hand Russia diversified its export markets by building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline to the markets of China, Japan and Korea, as well as the Sakhalin–Khabarovsk–Vladivostok gas pipeline in the Russian Far East. Russia has also recently built several major oil and gas refineries, plants and ports.
Additionally, Putin has presided over construction of major hydropower plants, such as the Bureya Dam and the Boguchany Dam, as well as the restoration of the nuclear industry of Russia, with some 1 trillion rubles ($42.7 billion) allocated from the federal budget to nuclear power and industry development before 2015.
A large number of nuclear power stations and units are currently being constructed by the state corporation Rosatom in Russia and abroad.
A construction program of floating nuclear power plants will provide power to Russian Arctic coastal cities and gas rigs, starting in 2012.
The Arctic policy of Russia also includes an offshore oilfield in the Pechora Sea is expected to start producing in early 2012, with the world's first ice-resistant oil platform and first offshore Arctic platform.
In August 2011 Rosneft, a Russian government-operated oil company, signed a deal with ExxonMobil for Arctic oil production. "The scale of the investment is very large. It's scary to utter such huge figures" said Putin on signing the deal.
Putin used a tranquilizer gun to sedate an Amur Tiger in the Ussuri Nature Reserve in Primorsky Krai, 2008.
In 2004, President Putin signed the Kyoto Protocol treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gases.
However Russia did not face mandatory cuts, because the Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from 1990 levels and Russia's greenhouse-gas emissions fell well below the 1990 baseline due to a drop in economic output after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Putin personally supervises and/or promotes a number of protection programmes for rare and endangered animals in Russia:
The Amur Tiger Programme
The White Whale Programme
The Polar Bear Programme
The Snow Leopard Programme
With religious leaders of Russia, 2001 Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism, defined by law as Russia's traditional religions and a part of Russia's "historical heritage" enjoyed limited state support in the Putin era.
The vast construction and restoration of churches, started in 1990s, continued under Putin, and the state allowed the teaching of religion in schools (parents are provided with a choice for their children to learn the basics of one of the traditional religions or secular ethics).
His approach to religious policy has been characterised as one of support for religious freedoms, but also the attempt to unify different religions under the authority of the state.
In 2012, Putin was honored in Bethlehem and a street was named after him.
Putin regularly attends the most important services of the Russian Orthodox Church on the main Orthodox Christian holidays.
He established a good relationship with Patriarchs of the Russian Church, the late Alexy II of Moscow and the current Kirill of Moscow.
As President, he took an active personal part in promoting the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, signed 17 May 2007 that restored relations between the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia after the 80-year schism.
Putin and United Russia enjoy high electoral support in the national republics of Russia, in particular in the Muslim-majority republics of Povolzhye and the North Caucasus.
Under Putin, the Hasidic FJCR became increasingly influential within the Jewish community, partly due to the influence of Federation-supporting businessmen mediated through their alliances with Putin, notably Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich.
According to the JTA, Putin is popular amongst the Russian Jewish community, who see him as a force for stability.
Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said Putin "paid great attention to the needs of our community and related to us with a deep respect."
Putin in the cockpit of a Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber before the flight, August 2005.
Aboard battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy during Northern Fleet exercise in 2005 The resumption of long-distance flights of Russia's strategic bombers was followed by the announcement by Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov during his meeting with Putin on 5 December 2007, that 11 ships, including the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov, would take part in the first major navy sortie into the Mediterranean since Soviet times. The sortie was to be backed up by 47 aircraft, including strategic bombers.
While from the early 2000s (decade) Russia started pumping more money into its military and defence industry, it was only in 2008 that the full-scale Russian military reform began, aimed to modernize Russian Armed Forces and made them significantly more effective.
The reform was largely carried by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov during Medvedev's Presidency, under supervision of both Putin, as the Head of Government, and Medvedev, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces.
Key elements of the reform included reducing the armed forces to a strength of one million; reducing the number of officers; centralising officer training from 65 military schools into 10 'systemic' military training centres; creating a professional NCO corps; reducing the size of the central command; introducing more civilian logistics and auxiliary staff; elimination of cadre-strength formations; reorganising the reserves; reorganising the army into a brigade system; reorganising air forces into an air base system instead of regiments.
The number of Russia's military districts was reduced to just 4. The term of draft service was reduced from two years to one, which put an end to the old harassment traditions in the army, since all conscripts became very close by draft age. The gradual transition to the majority professional army by the late 2010s was announced, and a large programme of supplying the Armed Forces with new military equipment and ships was started. The Russian Space Forces were replaced on 1 December 2011 with the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces.
In spite of Putin's call for major investments in strategic nuclear weapons, these will fall well below the New START limits due to the retirement of aging systems.
Putin has also sought to increase Russian military presence in the Arctic.
In August 2007, a Russian expedition planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole. Russian submarines and troops have been increasing in the Arctic.
Addressing Olympic Committee in Guatemala, 2007 (using fluent English) As of late 2013, Russian-American relations were at a low point.
The United States canceled a summit (for the first time since 1960), after Putin gave asylum to Edward Snowden, who had stolen NSA secrets.
Washington regarded Russia as obstructionist and a spoiler regarding Syria, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. In turn, those nations look to Russia for protection against the United States.
Europe needs Russian oil, but worries about interference in the affairs of Eastern Europe.
Russia remains angry over the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe. Central Asia sees Moscow as a former overlord, which is too powerful to ignore, even as countries assist American involvement in Afghanistan.
In Asia, India has moved from a close ally of the Soviet Union to a partner of the United States with strong nuclear and commercial ties. Japan and Russia remain at odds over the ownership of the Kurile islands; this dispute has hindered cooperation for decades
China has moved from a client state of Russia in the 1950s, to a bitter antagonist in the 1960s and 1970s, to a situation where its economic powerhouse sees Russia as a source of raw materials, as well as an ally in the United Nations.
On the lighter side, Putin has won international support for sport in Russia.
In 2007, he led a successful effort on behalf of Sochi (located along the Black Sea near the border between Georgia and Russia) for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics, the first Winter Olympic Games to ever be hosted by Russia.
Likewise, in 2008, the city of Kazan won the bid for the 2013 Summer Universiade, and on 2 December 2010 Russia won the right to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup, also for the first time in Russian history.
In 2013, Putin stated that gay athletes would not face any discrimination at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
President Barack Obama is not planning to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics, joining other western leaders in the apparent symbolic boycott.[
Relations with NATO and its member nations
Russia's relationships with NATO and the U.S. have passed through several stages.
When Putin first became President, the relations were cautious. After the 9/11 attacks when Putin quickly supported the U.S. in the War on Terror, the opportunity for partnership appeared. However, the U.S. responded by further expansion of NATO to Russia's borders and by unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Since 2003, when Russia did not support the Iraq War and when Putin became ever more distant from the West in his internal and external policies, the relations continued to deteriorate.
According to Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, the narrative of the mainstream U.S. media, following that of the White House, became anti-Putin.
In an interview with Michael Stürmer, Putin was quoted saying that there were three questions which most concerned Russia and Eastern Europe: namely, the status of Kosovo, the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and American plans to build missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, and suggested that all three were linked.
In Putin's view, concessions on one of these questions on the Western side might be met with concessions from Russia on another.
In a January 2007 interview, Putin said Russia is in favor of a democratic multipolar world and of strengthening the systems of international law.
Bush and Putin in 2007
In February 2007, Putin criticized what he called the United States' monopolistic dominance in global relations, and "almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations". He said the result of it is that "no one feels safe!
Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race." This came to be known as the Munich Speech, and former NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called the speech, "disappointing and not helpful."
The months following Putin's Munich Speech were marked by tension and a surge in rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Russian and American officials, however, denied the idea of a new Cold War.
Putin publicly opposed plans for the U.S. missile shield in Europe, and presented President George W. Bush with a counterproposal on 7 June 2007 which was declined. Russia suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe on 11 December 2007.
Vladimir Putin strongly opposed Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, warning supporters of that precedent that it would de facto destroy the whole system of international relations.
Putin had friendly relations with former American President George W. Bush, and many European leaders. Putin's "cooler" and "more business-like" relationship with Germany's current Chancellor, Angela Merkel is often attributed to Merkel's upbringing in the former DDR, where Putin was stationed when he was a KGB agent.
Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom deteriorated when the United Kingdom granted political asylum to Putin's former patron, oligarch Boris Berezovsky in 2003.
This deterioration was intensified by allegations that the British were spying and making secret payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.
The end of 2006 brought more strained relations in the wake of the death by polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London.
In 2007, the crisis in relations continued with expulsion of four Russian envoys over Russia's refusal to extradite former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi to face charges in the alleged murder of Litvinenko. Mirroring the British actions, Russia expelled UK diplomats and took other retaliatory steps.
Relations with South and East Asia
Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao at the 2003 APEC Summit in Thailand In 2012, Putin wrote an article in the Hindu newspaper, saying that "The Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia signed in October 2000 became a truly historic step".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Putin's 2012 visit to India: "President Putin is a valued friend of India and the original architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership".
Putin's Russia maintains positive relations with other BRIC countries. The country has sought to strengthen ties especially with the People's Republic of China by signing the Treaty of Friendship as well as building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline geared toward growing Chinese energy needs.
The mutual-security cooperation of the two countries and their central Asian neighbours is facilitated by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The announcement made during the SCO summit that Russia resumes on a permanent basis the long-distance patrol flights of its strategic bombers (suspended in 1992) in the light of joint Russian-Chinese military exercises, first-ever in history held on Russian territory, made some experts believe that Putin is inclined to set up an anti-NATO bloc or the Asian version of OPEC.
When presented with the suggestion that "Western observers are already likening the SCO to a military organisation that would stand in opposition to NATO", Putin answered that "this kind of comparison is inappropriate in both form and substance".
Relations with Middle Eastern and North African countries
On 16 October 2007 Putin visited Iran to participate in the Second Caspian Summit in Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This was the first visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Iran since Joseph Stalin's participation in the Tehran Conference in 1943, and thus marked a significant event in Iran-Russia relations.
At a press conference after the summit Putin said that "all our (Caspian) states have the right to develop their peaceful nuclear programmes without any restrictions".
Putin with Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 2007
Subsequently, under Medvedev's presidency, Iran-Russia relations were uneven: Russia did not fulfill the contract of selling to Iran the S-300, one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems currently existing.
However, Russian specialists completed the construction of Iran and the Middle East's first civilian nuclear power facility, the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, and Russia has continuously opposed the imposition of economic sanctions on Iran by the U.S. and the EU, as well as warning against a military attack on Iran.
Putin was quoted as describing Iran as a "partner",though he expressed concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme.
In April 2008, Putin became the first Russian President who visited Libya. Putin condemned the foreign military intervention of Libya, he called UN resolution as "defective and flawed," and added "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades."
Upon the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Putin called it as "planned murder" by the US, saying: "They showed to the whole world how he (Gaddafi) was killed," and "There was blood all over. Is that what they call a democracy?"
Regarding Syria, from 2000 to 2010
Russia sold around $1.5 billion worth of arms to that country, making Damascus Moscow's seventh-largest client.
During the Syrian civil war, Russia threatened to veto any sanctions against the Syrian government, and continued to supply arms to the regime.
Putin opposed any foreign intervention. In June 2012, in Paris, he rejected the statement of French President Francois Hollande who called on Bashar Al-Assad to step down.
Putin echoed the argument of the Assad regime that anti-regime '’militants'’ were responsible for much of the bloodshed.
He also talked about previous NATO interventions and their results, and asked "What is happening in Libya, in Iraq? Did they become safer? Where are they heading? Nobody has an answer."
On 11 September 2013, an opinion, written by Putin, was published in the New York Times regarding international events related to the United States, Russia and Syria. Putin subsequently helped to arrange for Syria to disarm itself of chemical weapons.
Relations with post-Soviet states
A series of the so-called color revolutions in the post-Soviet states, namely the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, led to frictions in the relations of those countries with Russia.
In December 2004, Putin criticised the Rose and Orange Revolution, according to him: "If you have permanent revolutions you risk plunging the post-Soviet space into endless conflict".
Meeting with Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, in 2008
A number of economic disputes erupted between Russia and some neighbours, such as the Russian import ban of Georgian wine. And in some cases, such as the Russia–Ukraine gas disputes, the economic conflicts affected other European countries, for example when a January 2009 gas dispute with Ukraine led state-controlled Russian company Gazprom to halt its deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine, which left a number of European states, to which Ukraine transits Russian gas, to have serious shortages of natural gas in January 2009.
The plans of Georgia and Ukraine to become members of NATO have caused some tensions between Russia and those states. In 2010, Ukraine did abandon these plans. Putin allegedly declared at a NATO-Russia summit in 2008 that if Ukraine joined NATO Russia could contend to annex the Ukrainian East and Crimea.
In public Putin has stated that Russia has no intention of annexing any country.
Despite existing or past tensions between Russia and most of the post-Soviet states, Putin has followed the policy of Eurasian integration. Putin endorsed the idea of a Eurasian Union in 2011, (the concept was proposed by the President of Kazakhstan in 1994).
On 18 November 2011, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement, setting a target of establishing the Eurasian Union by 2015.
Relations with Australia, Latin America, and others
Putin and his successor Medvedev enjoyed warm relations with the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
Much of this has been through the sale of military equipment; since 2005, Venezuela has purchased more than $4 billion worth of arms from Russia.
In September 2008, Russia sent Tupolev Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela to carry out training flights.
n November 2008, both countries held a joint naval exercise in the Caribbean. Earlier in 2000, Putin had re-established stronger ties with Fidel Castro's Cuba.
In September 2007, Putin visited Indonesia and in doing so became the first Russian leader to visit the country in more than 50 years.
In the same month, Putin also attended the APEC meeting held in Sydney where he met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and signed a uranium trade deal. This was the first visit by a Russian president to Australia.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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