Russia's New World Order

Photograph by SERGEI GUNEYEV for TIME

IN THE CENTER: Putin's prescription for Russia's woes is to take more power himself. It's popular, but as a system for running a huge country, it's brittle

There aren't many clubs harder to join than the G-8. You have to be at the top of the global heap: one of the very richest industrialized countries, potent enough to help steer the world's economy. And you're supposed to be a functioning democracy too. So when Vladimir Putin opens this year's G-8 summit next weekend at the sumptuous Palace of Congresses overlooking the sea 15 km from St. Petersburg, the famously stone-faced Russian President can be forgiven a brief flicker of a smile. The former kgb officer in East Germany will be in charge of a gathering to which, by...

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