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Cracks in Putin's kingdom

Serious voices in Russia are doubting his judgment on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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A few days after the Kremlin recognized the independence of contested territories South Ossetia and Abkhazia last week, an upscale Moscow daily newspaper called Kommersant added a biting video clip to its site. Vladimir Soloviev, whose reporting from Georgia was among the best in any country's media, offered a crisp analysis of the war and its aftermath.

The moment Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized the two breakaway regions, he said, Georgia's defeat in war became a political victory. "It really is time for [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili to dial Dmitry Medvedev and say 'Thank you, colleague.' "

The clip captured a growing mood within the Russian establishment. The euphoria that followed the destruction of Georgian's $2 billion Army and the humiliation of President Saakashvili has dissolved. And for the first time since Vladimir Putin – and his muscled, uncompromising, and vindictive world view – came to power in 1999, serious voices are expressing doubts about his judgment.

They clearly feel that Russia has not emerged onto the world stage quite so authoritatively as Mr. Putin may have thought; the country has instead stumbled into a dangerous and debilitating trap.

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