President Bush says he believes the U.S news magazine Time chose Russian President Vladimir Putin as its person of the year, because of his role as a consequential national leader.

At his news conference Thursday, Mr. Bush said the question remains what the consequences of Mr. Putin's leadership will be, and what Russia will look like 10 years from now.

Mr. Bush expressed the hope that Russia will remain on a democratic path.

Mr. Bush stressed the importance of maintaining checks and balances in government, of free elections and a vibrant independent news media.

The president said the United States will also watch and see how the new Russian president, to be elected in March, will carry on his business.

Mr. Bush said he expects to meet the new Russian leader several times next year and predicted it will be interesting to see how he will conduct policy.

Mr. Putin has backed the presidential nominee of his United Russia Party, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, to succeed him. Medvedev has pledged to name Mr. Putin as prime minister if elected to the presidency.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.