Current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today presented to the world the man who will most likely succeed him, and it just so happens it's the very same man who preceded him in that office: Vladimir Putin. Since Medvedev stepped up in 2008, many believed he was really just a placeholder for the far more hawkish Putin. But the former's agenda was aggressive in promoting significant economic reform and openness in a Russian economy infamous for its billionaire robber barons, vicious mob, and rogue KGB strongmen. That and Medvedev's decision earlier this year to seek a second term gave rise to speculations that maybe Putin's era had passed. Today's announcement at a congress for the ruling United Russia Party put the kibosh on that.
Putin's renewed ascendancy did raise some immediate concerns, mostly that a return to a (even more) heavy-handed Kremlin was in the cards. But some think the economy has liberalized to the point where the government can't keep up, including Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist for a Moscow investment bank.
Russians will continue down the road of privatization and diversification away from oil, not because they like to, but because they will be forced to.
Technically, the United Russia Party still has to vote to make Putin their official candidate, but that's already a foregone conclusion, as is his victory in a general election against underfunded and undercut opposition groups. Add to that increased presidential terms of six years, as compared to four now, and Putin is set to return to the world stage as one of the most powerful men on it.