Analysis: Putin invokes history's lions for return to Kremlin

Tue Nov 1, 2011 7:30am EDT
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By Guy Faulconbridge and Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin has an answer for Russians worried that his return to the presidency next year will usher in an era of stagnation: study the careers of Franklin D. Roosevelt or Charles de Gaulle.

Putin could be president until 2024 if he wins the maximum two successive terms and by then would have ruled for almost a quarter of a century.

His decision to reclaim the presidency has brought frequent comparisons with Communist leader Leonid Brezhnev, whose 18-year rule of the Soviet Union until his death in 1982 is widely seen as an era of political and economic stagnation.

But Putin, who has remained Russia's paramount leader even as prime minister since 2008, prefers to hold up the examples of long-serving Western leaders to justify his return to the Kremlin, which is all but certain in next March's election.

The former KGB spy's history lessons also give a sense of how he views himself and could provide clues about what his next presidency will hold.

Asked about his decision to return to the post he held for eight years until 2008, Putin corrected an interviewer who referred to Roosevelt, the longest-serving U.S. president.

"Yes, Roosevelt was elected three times," said Konstantin Ernst, the head of the Pervyi Kanal (First Channel).

"No," Putin, 59, snapped back, wagging his finger at Ernst. "Four times."   Continued...

<p>Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looks on while chairing a meeting with activists of the All-Russian People's Front in Moscow October 26, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>