I should be careful about sending emails about “Fearless Leader” of Russia, so-called the most powerful man in the world by Forbes magazine. Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) on October 7, 1952. After graduating from Leningrad State University, he went to work for the KGB as an intelligence officer (could that also mean spy?). He was stationed in East Germany until 1989.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin retired from the KGB with the rank of colonel. He became head of external affairs in 1991 for Leningrad Mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. He later became Sobchak’s Deputy Mayor in 1994. After Sobchak lost re-election, Putin resigned and moved to Moscow and became Boris Yeltsin’s deputy head of management in 1996. His was in charge of the Kremlin’s relations with regional governments.
Shortly thereafter, he was appointed the head of Federal Security (an arm of the KGB) as well as the head of Yeltsin’s security council. In August of 1999, he became Yeltsin’s hand-picked Prime Minister. Then when Yeltsin resigned in December, 1999, Putin was appointed acting president until elections could be held in early 2000.
He announced Russia was an ally of the United States after 9/11. But soon, he joined Germany and France in their opposition to the “war on terror.” He was re-elected in 2004, but could not run again in 2008 due to term limits. His protégé Dmitri Medvedev appointed him as prime minister in March 2008.
This kept him at the top of Russian leadership until he was elected (74.6% of the vote)to this third term as President. Of course, he immediately appointed Medvedev as his prime minister. Then in a most striking move, he banned U.S. adoption of Russian children in December 2012. Matters got worse between the U.S. and Russia when President Obama cancelled a meeting with Putin in August due to the Edward Snowden incident, and subsequent asylum. His antigay laws have also caused considerable controversy, particularly with the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Many of Putin’s actions are regarded as undemocratic. Basically, he has moved Russia from a hybrid democracy to an authoritarian regime. It remains a revelation to me that nobody saw this coming! His critics called him a dictator, and his government has been described as a “mafia state.” Yet, he does get credit for Russia’s economic recovery in the 1990s. During this time, real income increase 2.5 times, and real wages more than tripled. Unemployment and poverty were reduced by half.
His energy policy has made Russia an energy superpower. He has also allowed foreign investment. 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. How true that has proven!
He recently divorced his wife, Lyudmilla of nearly thirty years. They had two children, both daughters, in their late twenties now. Putin is actually an Orthodox Christian. and an actively practices judo. Just imagine the stuff she knows about Fearless Leader. February 21st marked the notorious Pussy Riot, just after his presidential campaign and re-election.
He and Russia are regarded as obstructionists with Syria, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. These countries look to Russia for protection from the U.S. While Europe needs Russian gas, they worry about interference in the affairs of eastern Europe, particularly with regard to NATO expansion. India has also developed strong ties with Russia, particularly for nuclear and commercial enterprise. Likewise, China has become an ally of Russia, primarily as a source for their raw materials. But he was able to help Sochi become the host for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Unconfirmed reports say Putin has a stash of upwards of $70 billion USD. As of now, his official income as President is less than $100,000 per year. However, he has over twenty villas and palaces according to his political opponents. “Putin’s Palace” is under construction near the Black Sea for a purported $1 billion USD.
I would say, without a doubt, he is a most formidable leader and opponent. I do not have an appointment to see him yet. Perhaps one of you can call ahead and arrange high tea or cocktails with him for me!