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Putin In Charge

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.



Lest there have been any real doubt. Vladimir Putin is in charge. Putin the prime minister of Russia is theoretically number two to Russia's president, Putin's hand-picked successor Dmitri Medvedev.

But, it was Putin who flew into the war zone over the weekend after leaving the Olympics. It was Putin who was seen visiting the wounded Russian soldiers who were hurt doing battle in Georgia's break away regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is Putin who is thumbing his nose at the west, knowing full well that the United States, NATO and Nicolas Sarkozy can do little but, talk.

For the Georgians this a particularly difficult time. President Saakashvili embraces Washington, not Moscow. Georgia sent 2,000 troops to Iraq to help the U.S. Saakashvili wants to join NATO. And we've basically told him you're on the short list.

Putin doesn't like any of this. So he exercised a little muscle over the weekend; and there is little anyone can do but, watch.

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