Putin visits the Church of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh in Tsarskoye Selo outside St. Petersburg. AFP PHOTO/RIA-NOVOSTI/POOL/ALEXEI DRUZHININ
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Vladimir Putin's confrontation with the U.S. and Europe augurs a new deal for his 144 million subjects.Doctors protested on Nov. 30 over job cuts and Putin ordered a freeze in inflation-linked pay raises for some state employees. Keeping dissatisfaction at bay will be costly too: Putin may exhaust more than half of the nation's $420 billion of reserves – down from almost $600 billion in 2008 – within two years.It's a watershed moment for Putin, whose first two terms in power coincided with oil prices rising from about $25 a barrel to a peak of $140 during a decadelong run.While Putin's support fell three points from October, it was still 85 percent.High oil prices have been key to Putin's rule since he took over from Boris Yeltsin, fueling an average growth rate of 7 percent between 2000 and 2008 .Putin used to promise Russians that their country would overtake Germany as the world's fifth-largest economy by 2020 .Putin also betting that oil prices will rebound.
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