Putin holds a globe, with Russian territory in pink, including Crimea.
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When U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first leader of a major economy to meet Russia's new president in March 2000, Vladimir Putin couldn't have been more gracious.Blair praised Putin for seeking to modernize his economy and make it more open to foreign investment. Putin the week before had mentioned the idea of Russia's joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The ruble, which today reached a record low, has fallen 30 percent since Putin first became president.Putin's dream of making Russia one of the world's five biggest economies by 2020 is now in ruins, according to Sergei Guriev, a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who fled to Paris last year. He says it could have been achieved had Putin focused on delivering economic growth of 5 percent to 6 percent as promised. The U.S. even supported Russia's entry to the WTO.Putin offered asylum to fugitive American government intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in August 2013 and Russia defied the U.S. in shoring up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.Vladimir Lukin, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. in the early 1990s, says Putin isn't solely to blame for the state of affairs.
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