Russia's ban on grain exports, sparking fears of a global food shortage, demonstrates the country's importance in world affairs, despite having been on the verge of collapse little more than a decade ago.
Its revival is due mostly to the former president and present prime minister, Vladimir Putin.
He has shown little regard for diplomatic niceties as he reasserts the status of his country - with 12,000-plus nuclear warheads - on the world stage.
And he has hinted that he could return to the presidency in 2012. If re-elected, Putin could seek a consecutive term in office, allowing him to stay in power until 2024.
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