Putin a "puppeteer": Clinton
Sydney - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton viewed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as a "behind the scenes puppeteer" dissatisfied with his role, a diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks shows.
The confidential State Department cable details a March 2009 discussion between Clinton and Australia's then prime minister Kevin Rudd in Washington, in which Rudd asked for insights into Russian politics given he was soon to meet President Dmitry Medvedev.
"The Secretary said Medvedev was looking for legitimacy and positioning vis-a-vis PM Putin," the confidential cable from the State Department said.
"...even as Putin was dissatisfied with the role he has carved out for himself - behind-the-scenes puppeteer and lead on energy policy - but somewhat bound through 2012 since he had ceded other issues to Medvedev."
When Rudd asked whether Medvedev could be more liberal than Putin, Clinton "indicated Medvedev's desire for status and respect could cause him to be".
"Rudd agreed," the cable continued, "opining Russians' awareness of how their leaders were viewed internationally could help improve Medvedev's domestic standing."
The first of around 250 000 confidential US diplomatic cables to be leaked by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks have already described Russia as a virtual "mafia state".
They included comments that all the power and decision-making authority rests with the former KGB agent Putin and not the more liberal formal leader Dmitry Medvedev.
One cable referred to Putin as an "alpha dog" who made all the decisions in the Russian president's place, adding that Medvedev - described in one dispatch as often looking indecisive and pale - simply "plays Robin to Putin's Batman".
In a more recent release, the European Union's former external affairs commissioner Chris Patten once said that Putin had the eyes "of a killer" when talking about Chechnya.