Putin Beats Obama for Top Spot on Forbes Most Powerful People List


Who is more powerful, Russian President Vladimir Putin, or the U.S.'s Barack Obama? According to Forbes "World's Most Powerful People" list, the gremlin in the Kremlin takes the cake.

The publication explains that "no one would call Vladimir Putin a good guy." In fact, Forbes calls him an "autocrat," but explains that "power isn't pretty." The Russian leader earned his chops for annexing Crimea, waging in Ukraine a bloody, brutal war that no other power has the will to stop, and making a $70 billion gas pipeline deal with China. This does, however, overlook the fact that Russia's economy is rapidly approaching recession levels and the nation's currency keeps dropping to record low values.

Forbes is less generous in its estimation of Obama:

Heading into the second half of his second term, Obama seems stymied both by the West African Ebola breakout and a blood-thirsty militia named ISIS, which threaten to undo all the gains of a 9-year war in Iraq that cost the lives of 4,500 Americans. At home, racially charged images of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri mock his 2008 message of "Change." On the plus side, unemployment is at its lowest level since the Great Recession and the markets continue test new highs. One word sums up his second place finish: caution. He has the power but has been too cautious to fully exercise it.

The paper explains their methodology: "First, we ask whether the candidate has power over lots of people," which can mean anything from major religious leaders like Pope Francis to big company CEOs like Doug McMillan of Wal-Mart; "Next we assess the financial resources controlled by each person"; "Then we determine if the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres"; and whether "candidates actively use their power."

A few other political-type Americans made the cut. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen took the sixth spot, former President Bill Clinton took 44th (Hillary is not on the list, but Forbes gives her a shout-out: "There is no denying that wife Hillary is also a political force to be reckoned with"), Chief Justice John Roberts got the 65th.

One interesting new addition is a man who has sent numerous threats to the U.S. and Russia. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, comes in spot #54.

A major relief is that the list has plenty who aren't primarily in politics. Bill Gates of Microsoft, Sergey Brin and Larry of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Tim Cook of Apple all made the list. While politicians squabble through their zero-sum game, these technologists provide goods and services that impact and improve the daily lives of billions of people.

Read Reason coverage of the Cold War revival between Obama and Putin. Check out this piece of art that portrays the latter spanking the former.