This news can be interpreted in many ways. Here are some possibilities:
- it is an "I told you!" moment for many older American anti-Russian Russia experts. Putin is back. "I told you so!"
- it is a "crap, is this really happening?" moment for young intellectual Russians and progressively thinking U.S.-Russia experts (like myself).
- it is a "what else did you expect?" moment of irrelevance for the entire Russian population. There is no other leadership option. Period.
WikiLeaks has quoted American dispatches saying that Putin has become progressively lazy, and does not work as hard or passionately anymore as he used too. If there were a strong potential leadership - he might have very well stepped aside. Putin's problem is not Putin, it's the fact that the only viable option to him are Russian fascists. And even they do not have a unified capable leader. Dmitry Medvedev will, most likely, run as well; he will lose to Putin. One may say that Putin does not have opposition because he suppressed all of it, but the reality is that Communists are the viable opposition, and their voters are literally dying out. Liberals are not in the parliament, as they have not been able to gain more than 0.5% of the Russians votes. They lost their trust in the 90-s, when Russia slid to the state of poverty and irrelevance.
As Kasparovs of the world are running wild on the papers of Western news agencies, claiming their presidential possibilities, the true reality is that Russia is experiencing the worst leadership vacuum since the days of the Soviet Union. With unrestricted Internet and free travel, this barely can be blamed on Putin's ruling techniques. The truth is - Putin has gotten extremely lucky and things have gotten progressively better during his 11 years of leadership. The crude oil has doubled in price during Putin's years, fueling his budgeting tanks of reforms and innovations.
After centuries of turmoil, poverty, and violence, stability and increasing incomes are all that Russians need. Once again, two years before the elections, things have gotten better again, through acts of God, and with no acts of Putin. Russia's budget--despite any objective realities--is back in black, social programs boosting, and Putin's ranking growing once again. Why? The timing of anti-Qaddafi's uprising, Libyan war, and consequential increase in world's oil prices. How much longer will Vladimir remain lucky? We don't know, but seems like Putin's defense for and love of tigers and other wild animals has brought him good karma and a decade of luck (and counting...).