Like a middle-aged former intelligence agent riding half-naked on a horse through the mountains – exactly like that, as it happens – Vladimir Putin returns! The two-term Russian president who has spent four years as the country's prime minister, in deference to term limits, will return to the presidency, Putin and his party announced on Saturday.
The development was anticipated, even if it was not the ending most desired by President Dmitri Medvedev, who Putin tapped to succeed him as president four years ago. Medvedev announced Putin's impending return in an address to members of United Russia, the party of which both men are members. Doesn't sound like he enjoyed the experience. Medvedev's voice was "cracking with emotion," The New York Times reported, even as his audience cheered happily for Putin's return.
Casual observers can be forgiven for thinking Putin never actually left. Throughout Medvedev's tenure, Putin was the more internationally famous of the two, and the one more likely to make news about Russia and its foreign policy designs. Witness, for example, the news wires just one day before Medvedev made his departure official. The person who was declaring that Russia would spur a boom in shipping through the Northeast passage and dominate Arctic commerce in an age of melting ice caps was not the president:
Russia's ambitious plans are part of the Kremlin's bid to mark out its stake over the energy-rich Arctic as climate change is beginning to open up at last as polar ice recedes.
"It is transport -- the creation of new sea and air corridors -- that is capable of becoming one of breakthrough projects uniting Arctic states," Putin said.
Reaction outside the confines of the United Russia party was not restricted to standing ovations.