Vladimir Putin: Master of the Moment

SERGEI GUNEYEV for TIME

As he dazzled U.S. journalists, Putin pushed the message that Russia will not be taken for granted

After almost three hours with Vladimir Putin, you realize why Boris Yeltsin and George Bush were so impressed. He is articulate, fiercely well-briefed, attentive to his interlocutors and, when he feels the need, faintly self-deprecating. But you also wonder whether either man fully sensed the knuckle inside the glove. A long meeting with Putin last week offered a small group of U.S. journalists an unusual chance to observe him up close. It also let Putin fine-tune his message for the Bush Administration: if things go well while he is in office, Putin will be a charming colleague; if things go badly...

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