Who is more powerful: Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin?
Russian president tops Forbes list of most powerful people in the world, leaving Obama in his wake
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has been named the most powerful person in the world by Forbes, toppling US President Barack Obama and sparking debate over who really holds the most power.
Forbes claims Putin has solidified his control over Russia while Obama's "lame duck period" has set in. The latest example, it says, is the US shutdown and the international "chess match" over Syria and the NSA leaks fiasco, in which Russia gave asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
But Seamus Milne in The Guardian says the idea that Putin is now more powerful than Obama – or Russia than the US – is "beyond absurd".
It is true that Putin, or rather his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, "played a blinder" by turning the threat of a US attack on Syria into a UN agreement on chemical weapons, says Milne, but the US continues to be "overwhelmingly the most powerful state in the world" both militarily and economically.
"Its 'defence' spending is larger than that of the next dozen states combined," says Milne. "It has bases and forces stationed in a majority of countries of the world – and continues to use them without restraint, from Libya to Pakistan. By contrast, Russia has one military facility outside the former Soviet Union, in Syria."
Such criticism misses two big points, says Forbes. One is confusing the power of the US with the power of the President. The second and far bigger point is that Barack Obama is "weak internationally by choice".
Adam Taylor in Business Insider believes Putin has been the most powerful person in the world for years. Despite America's economic and military strength, a complicated system of government checks and balances limits Obama's true power, says Taylor. "Putin has much more control over Russia than Obama does over the US."
Nevertheless, the New York Post suggests that the White House should be "cancelling its subscription to Forbes right about now", while Matthew Turner in the Digital Journal claims Forbes's "attention-seeking" decision to place Putin first on their list is still "erroneous".
Putin's regime is "entirely dependent" on its oil sales, says Turner, and that is not sustainable in the long term. "Such unrealistic prices cannot last forever and, when they fall, so will Putin's regime."
But The Independent points out that the US "continues to rule" in a different way. Of the 72 names on the list – each representing 100 million of the world's population – 28 are American, while only three come from Russia.
Top 20 most powerful people
1. Vladimir Putin, president of Russia
2. Barack Obama, president of US
3. Xi Jinping, China's president
4. Pope Francis
5. Angela Merkel, German chancellor
6. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
7. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve
8. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia
9. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank
10. Michael Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores
11. David Cameron, UK Prime Minister
12. Carlos Slim Helu & family, honorary chairman of América Móvil
13. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
14. Li Keqiang, China's premier
15. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
16. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil
17. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
18. Larry Page, CEO of Google
19. Francois Hollande, president of France
20. Timothy Cook, CEO of Apple ·