On the last day of 1999, Yeltsin once again surprised the world by transferring the crown of president to Putin, possibly in exchange for immunity from future possible prosecutions and lifelong benefits after his retirement. Shortly after in 2000, Putin won the presidential campaign with 52.5 percentage of vote and officially sworn in as Russian’s second president. As president he was, on the one hand, advocated by majority of Russians as a clever and efficient leader who can restore the glories of Soviet Union, on the other hand criticized by the West for extensively state intervention in economy and widely crackdown on media freedom in Russia. After re-elected to the presidency for the second term with an unprecedented voting of 71%, Putin stepped down in 2008 due to the term limits. He then appointed Dmitry Medvedev as his successor in exchange for the post of Prime Minster. As the New York Times put it, Putin remains “the country’s dominant politician, with a firm grip on power.”
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was facing extreme difficulties both domestically and internationally. Internally, the country was in a mess: the collapsing economy in the middle of transformation, the rampant corruption and severe social problems, the uncontrolled power of the regional governments; on the international affairs, U.S.-Russian relations was at an ice point. It is not surprising for many to describe Russia as “the sick man of Europe.” before Putin’s era.
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