Putin tops Forbes ‘most powerful’ list for 2nd year running

 Russia's President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)


RT Question More – 5 November 2014

For the second year running, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been named the world’s most powerful person by a panel of Forbes editors.

Forbes says its list isn’t based on political influence, but an evaluation of “hard power” – the use of military and economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other political actors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ranked the most powerful person in the world by Forbes. He topped the list of the 72 world figures that “matter the most,” while US President Barack Obama was rated second.

Putin’s Syria “chess match” that prevented the US strike, and his having the last word in the diplomatic row over the fugitive NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, didn’t go unnoticed with the editorial rating of the influential American business magazine, and were noted among the reasons for his top place.

This, added to Obama’s recent political failures and scandals surrounding his second term, have cost the US President the first position he achieved last year, with a “clear idea of the shift in the power towards Putin on the global stage.”

The Russian President also “outstripped” the likes of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping (ranked #3), the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who “fell” to #5 from #2 over the year), and the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (#8).

Curiously, Pope Francis was ranked #4, with the reason being he is “the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population,” as stated in the media’s details on its “methodology.” 

Other seemingly unexpected entries in the Forbes’ list include European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (#9) outstripping the rank of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron (#11). 29-year-old Mark Zuckerberg (CEO Facebook) managed two ranks above the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Apparently, Putin’s first place on Forbes couldn’t appear without ready-made clichés in the description and accompanying articles, with terms like “autocratic leader,” “ex-KGB strongman,” and “dictator” littered everywhere. His counterpart Obama, on the other hand, has been depicted as “the handcuffed head of the most dominant country,” but still the “leader of the free world.”

While giving Putin an optimistic forecast for his possible stay in office until 2024, Forbes was more negative towards Obama, saying that his “lame duck period” has already set in.

This is not the first time that Putin has led the “most influential” rating compiled by Western media. In 2012, Putin outdid everyone on the list of the international political think tank, Eurasia Group, published by the Foreign Policy magazine. However, the first place on the list was left ostensibly empty to symbolize the think tank’s concept of “no clear leader” in the modern world.

“We insist the people on our list wield the kind of power that shapes and bends the world, and moves people, markets, armies and minds,” the magazine wrote, explaining its choice.

Putin came out top among 17 other heads of state, presiding over a combined GDP of $48 trillion. As reasons for the decision, the editors cite Russia’s acquisition of the Crimean peninsula, management of the international standoff over Ukraine and a $400 billion gas pipeline deal signed with China in May.

When it comes to the world’s most powerful people, President Vladimir Putin ranks ahead of Bill Gates, Pope Benedict XVI, and US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Forbes list ranked 71 of the “world’s most powerful people” – or to put it another way, one person for every 100 million of the 7.1 billion people on the planet.

In order to be considered for the power list, a person must exhibit the following four criteria: 1. power over lots of people; 2. financial resources at one’s command; 3. does the person actively use their power and 4.is the candidate powerful in multiple spheres?

Considering the Forbes headquarters is in New York City it should come as no surprise that US President Barack Obama emerged as the world’s most powerful person – for the second year running.

“Obama was the decisive winner of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, and now he gets four more years to push his agenda,” Forbes explained. Then, with no loss of triumphalism, it argued “Obama remains the unquestioned commander in chief of the world’s greatest military, and head of its sole economic and cultural superpower.”

While not denying Obama his first-place nomination, some may question how he ranked so high at a time when the US economy is in a shambles. Corporate profits remain robust, although this is largely due to the artificial stimulus of Fed-generated dollars. Meanwhile, the US employment outlook remains bleak at best. At the same time, as far as Obama “using his power” goes, the majority of his first-term campaign promises (closing Guantanamo Bay detention facility, for example) have gone unfulfilled.

Meanwhile, in explaining Putin’s third-place ranking, Forbes introduced the Russian leader as “the ex-KGB strongman – who controls a nuclear-tipped army, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves.”

The American business magazine – ignoring Putin’s numerous initiatives to bring Russia back from its Soviet grave – said the Russian leader “scored points because he so frequently shows his strength — like when he jails protestors.”

Well, if that is really true, then why was the same rationale not given for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who ranked second among the global movers and shakers? After all, Germany, as well as the majority of western countries, has shown a marked tendency for putting protesters behind bars.

In May, for example, police in Frankfurt arrested more than 400 people as thousands of “Blockupy Frankfurt” protesters assembled in Germany’s financial center. Hundreds of others were reportedly injured in the melee.

Meanwhile, in September, about one thousand people gathered in New York City to mark the first year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The result? The police hauled 146 of the participants off to jail.

Moreover, and more disturbing, Obama further demonstrated his willingness to “use his power” when he signed the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the US military to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial. The Obama administration has appealed a decision to halt the draconian law.

In conclusion, Forbes admits that “any ranking of the world’s most powerful people is going to be subjective, so we don’t pretend ours is definitive. It’s meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word.”

Perhaps a good way to start such a conversation – at least as far as Forbes rationale behind Putin’s ranking goes – is why the West does not employ the same standards on itself as it does for Russia?

The business bi-weekly painted Russia under Putin’s rule in less than flattering terms, saying the country “looks more and more like an energy-rich, nuclear-tipped rogue state with an undisputed, unpredictable and unaccountable head unconstrained by world opinion in pursuit of its goals.”

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Putin also won the award last year, after successfully managing to broker a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

These two Forbes awards were not the first time Putin received a qualified accolade from a Western publication.

In 2007, Time Magazine named Putin its “Man of the Year,” describing him as a “steely and determined man” who “emerged as a critical linchpin of the 21st century” and brought Russia back to the world’s focus.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama took the second spot on Forbes’ list for the second consecutive year. Describing a president who has been rattled by the Ebola outbreak and so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq, Forbes said Obama “has the power but has been too cautious to fully exercise it.”

The depiction of Obama as the hamstrung head of a hyperpower was used to justify his fall to second place in 2013.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping rounded out the top three, while Pope Francis, who has battled to bring his 1.2 billion member flock on a more liberal path, took the fourth spot.

Away from the world of politics, 39 CEOs whose firms controlled $3.6 billion in annual revenues also made the list. In the world of money and power, 29 billionaires, whose cumulative net value exceeds $790 billion, counted themselves among the world’s most power figures. For 2014, the most powerful people in business are Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who together took the ninth spot.




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