Valdimir Putin was made active president by Boris Yeltsin when Yeltsin had to step down from presidency. Putin was relatively unknown, until the Chechnya crisis brought him to fame.
His ascendency to power was once seen as "good for democracy". Putin was once thought to be pro-West. Putin was one of the first leaders of the world to offer condolences and help to President Bush.
However, in recent years, and especially 2007, Putin has been showing that Russia would once again have its own say on global politics.
Russia underwent remarkable transformation in Putin's 8 years as president. Rising oil prices gave Russia sufficient boost to propel it up to the world's stage in less than 20 year after the fall of the Soviet Union. Stability was restored and people were satisfied.
A foreign debt once near to $200 billion was cleared, Rich Russians are richer, and the poor are also doing better. The wealth produced by oil has been spread well enough to please everyone.
The Russian revival is increasingly felt by the world as Russia is back among the world's top powers and having a major influence on world events again.
However, to achieve stability, Putin has curtailed freedom. Newspaper, TV Stations had been shut down, businessmen who challenged the Kremlin jailed, opposition political parties defanged and rebels arrested.
In his review of the book, Russian politics under Putin, JL Black wrote that "Several of the authors cautiously proclaim Putin an authoritarian", demonstrating the fact that even the academia labels Putin as an authoritarian.
Some scholars such as Shlapentokh (2003) described Putin as a virtual dictator who had full control of the Duma. "There was no legal opposition to Putin's regime and no chance for a real rotation of power in the country. Almost none of the leading Russian politicians dared to criticise him publicly." (Shlapentokh, 2003)
However, Putin remains very popular in his country although his rule seems to be authoritative. People seemed to be willing to exchange freedom for stability. "Putin's great advantage over his predecessor was his popularity." (Black, 2005)
Putin wants a say in global politics and also refuses to let external powers such as US interfere in Russian affairs. Russia's elections in 2007, demonstrated Putin's will to run the political system as he sees fit. The West has accused the elections as not democratic, but Putin does not seem to be bothered by Western complaints. And most Russians too are not complaining.
As long as Putin's administration keeps the economy going strong, and maintains the stability in Russia, which is exactly what Putin intends to ensure, according to Black's review, it seems unlikely that anti-Putin sentiments would run high.
That implies that on global issues, "sometimes Russia will be helpful to Western interests, and sometimes it will be the spoiler", as Adi Ignatius quoted Strobe Talbott in his article, "A Tsar Is Born".
One of the conflicts between Russia and US was when US wanted to set up a European Missile Shield in Eastern Europe in 2007. By aggressively denouncing the project, Putin has demonstrated that Russia is willing to re-assume its role as a global power is able to dominate its neighbours and to resist US. Putin may believe that Russia has a central role to play in its region and comprehends the potential political benefits of playing that part.
Ever since the start of his presidency, Putin had made clear his belief in a strong state as a "traditional Russian value". He also deemed the Anglo-Saxon model of liberal governance ill-suited for Russia.
Russia's asserting that it is a world power to be reckoned with, meant that current world affairs will have another player in the field. More cultural clashes are expected, contrary to the original post cold war myth of the "end of history". Backed by huge oil resources, Russia would become equal to China and India in terms of economy. USA's hegemony will have another challenger. Although USA's military power still knows no rival, the USA would have to be more cautious with its dealings as big nations are catching up with its lead.
This shift in the world order can contribute to 2 components of the civilizational paradigm that this site has proposed.
Orthodox Civilization's tolerance of autocracy - Russia's shift to an increasingly authoritative government is not surprising to those who are familiar with the nations' history. Orthodox civilization had been very tolerant of authoritative governments ever since its heydays. In fact, authoritative governments seem to work very well in Orthodox civilization and the people are comfortable with it.
Western Civilization's industrious nature - The West would definitely launch attacks on Russia or more specifically Putin for steering towards authoritarianism, since they were the ones who tried so hard to give Russians "political freedom". The West would be baffled by Russia's decision to adhere to Putin's authoritative rule since the West believes in individualism. However, they would be careful to not start another cold war since Russia now possesses some of the biggest supplies of the world's most valuable commodity - oil, which shows that although America believes that Russia should be democratic, it is not ready to provoke the oil giant to leave room for future collaborations.