Forbes magazine picks Putin as most powerful person
Vladimir Putin, self-styled man's man, has a new reason to flex his muscles on the geopolitical stage, after Forbes magazine anointed him the most powerful person on the planet.
The pint-sized Russian leader is already basking in the role of peacemaker after he and others persuaded the Syrian regime to surrender its chemical weapons, indirectly heading off a US military strike.
This diplomatic coup is presumably one of the reasons why Forbes' editors accorded him the No 1 slot in this year's 72-strong power list, ahead of US President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Pope Francis, in that order.
Putin's decision to give safe haven to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden was also noted. "Anyone watching this year's chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamic [between Putin and Obama],"said Forbes' Caroline Howard.
Putin, who has enjoyed 13 years of dominant rule over Russia as either president or prime minister, was again elected president in March 2012.
His rise comes as Obama's stock has fallen. Obama's perceived dithering over Syria cost him support in Congress and abroad while during the recent government shutdown he was seen as weak and vacillating. It was the first time in three years that the president has dropped to second place on the list.
Not everyone was convinced Putin deserves Forbes' accolade.
"The premise that Russia has become more assertive is correct," said Andrew Wood, Britain's envoy in Moscow from 1995 to 2000. "Is this due to weakness or strength? Weakness, probably. There are growing problems with the economy, large internal problems and tensions."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounded out the top five.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse