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article imageOp-Ed: Putin world’s most powerful person — Forbes

By Paul Wallis     Oct 31, 2013 in World
Sydney - Vladimir Putin can’t be called a popularity seeker, but Forbes rates him as the most powerful man in the world, followed by Barack Obama and Xi Jingping. Pope Francis came in fourth, followed by Angela Merkel and Bill Gates.
The Forbes “72 who rule the world” is an eclectic list at the very least, with the youngest person in the top 30 Larry Page, also the only one in his 40s. (A total of 6 are under 50.) You can take or leave the assessments of who’s more powerful than whom, but the list is an interesting look at a mass of power structures, most of which are barely visible.
At the top is the leader of arguably the world’s most eclectic nation. If the USSR was an Iron Curtain, modern Russia is an ocean of opacity. Some of Russia’s old character has returned, but with it has come a silence from the top. Putin is very much the face of modern Russia, but he blinks when he feels like it.
Westerners don’t get modern Russia. Diplomatically, Russia has managed to be the friendly bear on one paw and the monster on the other, apparently effortlessly. The initial Western enthusiasm turned to caution pretty quickly after the fall of the Soviet Union. They also don’t get Putin, who is the classic model of a Russian strong man, but with more depth and from the look of the last decade, more reach than his predecessors.
Some people call Russia a capitalist oligarchy, some call it a “Mafia nation”. Russian organised crime spread around the world as fast as glasnost, and perhaps with more authority. Whatever the nature of the beast, Putin is running it.
Forbes criteria for the most powerful people is interesting, too:
We measure their power along four dimensions.
First, we ask whether the candidate has power over lots of people. Pope Francis (No. 4) is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. Michael Duke (No. 10), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs 2.1 million people and is the top private employer on the planet.
Next we assess the financial resources controlled by each person. Are they relatively large compared to their peers? For heads of state we used GDP, while for CEOs, we looked at measures like their company’s assets and revenues. When candidates have a high personal net worth –like Carlos Slim Helu (No. 12) – we also take that into consideration
OK, take that as a set of metrics for Putin. Russia is a major oil and gas producer. It’s a non-Western financial hub, and GDP, if not exactly advertising itself, is obviously strong on and off official records.
Voice of Russia isn’t disagreeing with Forbes. An article called “Putin unseats Obama on Forbes List as US hegemony declines”. It may not be subtle, but it’s interesting to note that the language, if a bit Cold War-ish, is also an interesting sidelight to the internal gridlock of American Congress.
You have to wonder if Congress will take note that America’s international standing is diminished with every self-inflicted crisis and misstep. That was on Voice of Russia’s mind in an interview with a Moscow-based financial expert on the subject of the Forbes list:
.Let’s talk about America and President Obama. Barack Obama was topping the list for the last several years, he was there. Do you think that this change of positions signals American hegemony is gradually declining?
Well, I think it is gradually declining. I don’t think there can be any questions about it. Simply because of the rise of other countries. I mean, there was a time when the US was the key diplomatic relation for pretty much every country on Earth. That is no longer the case. It’s not so much being supplanted by Russia which is, you know, a medium sized country with a large, someone undiversified, economy. But it is being supplanted by a rising Asia. The survey is, of course, somewhat subjective. Mr. Obama may have gotten the top post of two years running because of his job description. And I guess, more what Forbes was saying was that his political situation in the US is unenviable. His ability to maneuver is strictly constrained as we’ve seen recently. So that whatever the power and however many nuclear war heads or trillions of dollars of debt the US may have, his ability to actually deploy that is somewhat limited.
Get the impression you’re watching a commentary from history?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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