Forbes names Putin most powerful person in the world

By bne IntelliNews October 31, 2013

bne -

US magazine Forbes named Russian President Vladimir Putin as the most powerful person in the world, overtaking US President Barack Obama.

The list reflects the changing shape of geopolitics and distinct shift to the east that is being catalysed by the ongoing crisis. China's Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party, was listed third in Forbes' annual ranking.

As commander in chief of the world's biggest army, the American "leader of the free world" is usually a shoo-in for the top slot - the US president has been number one every year except in 2010 when the crown went to China's Hu Jintao. But after two inconclusive wars and deep military spending cuts stemming from an economy in the doldrums, its military power has lost some of its appeal. At the same time, the grid-locked domestic political scene and government shutdowns have also made the president look weak.

Russia and China, on the other hand, have been boosting military spending rapidly. While neither country are anywhere close to threatening the US militarily (nor do they want to), nevertheless both are clearly emerging as global powers to be reckoned with and, increasingly, have the materiel behind them to back up their positions.

And economically both are emerging as must-have markets in any self-respecting multinational's portfolio. China is booming, albeit it at a slower rate than pre-crisis. Russia is having more trouble, suffering from a crisis-induced slowdown, but foreign direct investment tripled over the first six months of this year as every big retailer seems to want to set up shop in Moscow these days. Amongst the most recent entries to the market are Disney, Krispy Kream, Burger King, Wendy's and Chili's. By 2018 or so, Russia will be the largest consumer market in Europe and a top five market globally.

But it was the debate over what to do about Syria that really highlighted Putin's rising profile this year. The Russian president reigns unopposed at home, but he bolstered his international tough man image by facing down the international community, and the US in particular, in his opposition to military intervention in Syria. That victory showed Russia is back on the geopolitical football field as a key player.

China allied itself with Russia on this one, but the Chinese have been much less aggressive than the Russians in pushing their international agenda (probably as they hold a large part of the rest of the world's money).

Putin can now add the Forbes accolade to his growing collection of monikers (not all of which are nice), including Time magazine's decision to name him "man of the year" in 2007, at the height of Russia's last boom.

Amongst the other Russians on the list, the next is Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at #53. However, few Russians would agree with the Forbes' assessment of his power. Medvedev's popularity has tracked Putin's for the last few years, trading a few points below that of his boss, but more recently his popularity has decoupled from Putin's and begun to sink rapidly, leading some to speculate the PM is in for the chop soon.

The third Russian to appear in the top 100 is Rosneft CEO and former spymaster Igor Sechin, who is also a close Putin confidant and ranked #60. Sechin's Russian empire is expanding relentlessly as he uses the resources of the state-owned oil company to grab more and more assets.

Forbes names Putin most powerful person in the world

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