Earlier this week, Forbes put out a “World’s Most Powerful People” list with Putin at the top. I wasn’t kind. (It’s a bit of an epic smackdown, if you want to watch). Simon Tisdall was also gob-smacked:
[T]he praise for Putin from Forbes, a magazine that supposedly champions individual free enterprise, as a man who “has solidified his control over Russia”, is jaw-dropping. If power is to be measured by the successful imposition of authoritarian governance, then surely Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s dictator, should be Forbes’ No 1? On this basis, Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin would qualify for emeritus awards.
In point of fact, Putin’s power is largely illusory – a false idol erected and nurtured by a phalanx of Kremlin cronies, and maintained through control of Russia’s fast-depleting oil and gas revenues and an ever more repressive grip on civil society and the media.
The whole farce was obviously a way to get media attention (success!) but also an obvious product of Obama derangement syndrome. Some people cannot see foreign policy in anything but crude schoolyard terms – in which case, Obama’s willingness to give Putin the Syria WMD brief was clearly a sign of the president’s comparative weakness. This vote was obviously designed to stick the president in the eye. And have you looked at Forbes lately? They make Buzzfeed look like a virgin when it comes to advertorial.
More to the point, we’ve seen that Russia’s oversight has – so far – resulted in an unexpected success in destroying the chemical weapons sites by the deadline, which is today. You won’t hear that on Fox – but it’s a huge success. Obama’s avoidance of getting dragged into Syria’s civil war was obviously a wise move; to get an end to Syria’s WMDs at the same time is pretty damn cool. The outcome was a win-win for both Obama and Putin – and the world. And Obama made it happen. Not so powerless after all.