Vladimir Putin as World's No. 1: The Burden of Responsibility

7 november 2013

Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

Resume: All ratings are constructs which reflect not so much the real state of affairs as their compilers’ perception of it.

All ratings are constructs which reflect not so much the real state of affairs as their compilers’ perception of it. In this sense, Vladimir Putin topping the Forbes list of the world’s most influential people is not an exception, but a convincing confirmation of the rule. If we try to proceed from objective criteria the President of Russia is, of course, cannot be superior to both the US President and the PRC Chairman. Compared with Russia, the United States and present-day China have far more authority and capabilities for influencing world affairs. But in politics, naked “specifications and performance characteristics,” GDP figures or even the number of warheads on alert status are not always the only determining factors.

 

The stunning Syrian pirouette in September is clearly the source of Vladimir Putin’s success. The world has long become disaccustomed to major diplomatic achievements and intellectual finds that are thought of as a matter of course after they are unveiled and then people just throw up their hands in amazement, unable to figure out how they did not think of it before.

But Moscow was capable of implementing this combination primarily because it had taken an inflexibly consistent stand for the past two and a half years, a stand that flew in the face of the majority of politicians and analysts who believed that the Russian bet was doomed.

Consistency and inner conviction are scarce commodities in the modern world. Some, like America in the Middle East, dash here, there and everywhere to come up trumps against the background of staggering changes. Others, like China, prefer to keep a distance and hide behind a more active partner (Russia, in this case). Still others, like Europe, just feign activity, fearful of being left on the sidelines of important matters. It is not surprising therefore that a straight line makes an impression. Efficiency is generally a thing to envy because, as transpires at the critical moment, it is in short supply even in the most powerful nations.

Vladimir Putin is perceived as a stronger than the country he leads. Not so long ago, this was demonstrated quite clearly by the 2013 Valdai Index which indicated that many in the world appreciated Russia’s importance in spite of being surprised by its high level of inner confusion and a lack of progress in the development of the state system.

As a politician, President Putin should feel flattered by this victory. Apart from everything else, he is edging closer to the dean status among the leaders of major powers. But it is certainly a matter of concern for him as the leader of Russia. A country cannot rely on the prestige and activeness of one person alone, whoever he may be. Therefore his first place in the Forbes 2013 rating is, to a certain extent, an alarm signal. It alerts the world to the fact that it has very few efficient institutions and leaders. It alerts Russia to the gap existing between its leader’s reputation and the dynamism of national progress. And it alerts the favorite himself, who cannot but feel the burden of responsibility on his shoulders grow increasingly heavier.

 

| Valdaiclub

} Page 1 of 5