MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin laid out his case for a return to Russia's top office in a televised interview on Monday, casting himself as the best guarantor of a bright future in a country haunted by upheaval in the recent past.
Putin also offered hints of the foreign policy he might pursue during his presidency, saying Russia will not "put on the mantle of some superpower" and punch above its weight, but warning that it would fiercely defend its interests.
In some of his most extensive comments since he revealed plans to reclaim the Kremlin in a March vote, Putin, who could serve two six-year presidential terms, made clear he intends to stay in power until he feels his job is done.
"It's not the number of terms or years in power" that matters, said Putin, who was president from 2000-2008. He invoked the late US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died during his fourth term, to support his case.
"He led the country in the toughest times of economic depression and during World War Two - and he was elected four times, because he acted effectively," Putin said in the interview with the three leading Russian channels.
"When a country is experiencing difficult, hard conditions, when it is emerging from crisis and getting back to its feet, these elements of stability -- including in the political sphere -- are extremely important," Putin said.