A large archive of documents was de-classified in the U.S., as Bill Clinton's library released over a thousand documents regarding the U.S-Russia relations in the 1990s. The archive includes the formerly classified verbatims of conversations between Clinton himself and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin. Both were presidents of the respective countries at the time.
According to the documents, in September 1999, Yeltsin and Clinton were talking on the phone, when the Russian leader told his U.S. colleague he would choose Putin as his successor. Yeltsin said he needed 'a lot of time to think who would become the Russian president in 2000'. In his own words, he 'stumbled upon' him, before looking into his 'biography, interests and people he knew'.
'I realized he was a strong man who is well informed of various issues within the area of his responsibility. At the same time he is very careful and strong, he's very social and he can easily set good relations and contacts with his partners. I am sure you will consider him a very qualified partner. I'm deeply confident he will get enough support as the candidate in 2000', Yeltsin said back then.
\Later, in November 1999, as they met in person, Clinton asked him who would win in the Russian presidential election, and Yeltsin replied: 'Putin, of course. He will be my successor. He is a democrat, and he knows the West'.
'He's a strong man. He's got this internal ramrod. And I will do everything possible for him to win - legally, of course. And he will win. You will be having a business together. He will carry on on Yeltsin's path, which is oriented at democracy and expansion of Russia's contacts. He's got enough energy and the brains to prove successful,' Yeltsin concluded.