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    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Person of the Year?

    So the illustrious Time Magazine has named Vladimir Putin its Person of the Year, adding him to a list of winners that includes a few people he admires (his role model, Yuri Andropov, shared the title with Ronald Reagan in 1983), a few people Putin has never quite seen eye-to-eye with (George W. Bush and Lech Walesa, to name a couple) and, well, me.

    Does he deserve the prize? As Time notes in its explanation, the honour is not a popularity contest, nor an endorsement. Here's the offered explanation:

    At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership — bold, earth-changing leadership. Putin is not a boy scout. He is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability — stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years. Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather prepared blinis (Stalin) — who himself was twice TIME's Person of the Year — or like Peter the Great, the historical figure he most admires; whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression — this we will know only over the next decade. At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, he has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power.

    Putting judgements aside, as Time has, it's hard to argue that Putin hasn't transformed Russia in a very short period of time. Eight years ago, he inherited a nearly failed state and now Russia, while it still has dangerous internal problems, is a force to be reckoned with on the international stage again.

    A test of Putin and the new Russia looms next in Kosovo, where Serbs are looking to Putin as the only person willing to stand up for them as the West throws its weight behind the Kosovar Albanian leadership as it moves towards declaring full independence. More on that later...


    La Russophobe said...

    Actually, it's very easy to argue that Putin has had no impact on Russia at all, or has actually made things worse than they otherwise would have been, and Michael McFaul

    and Michael Weiss

    have forcefully done so.

    The fact that Putin has been in power while Russia has changed doesn't mean that Putin is responsible any more than I am responsible if I change my breakfast cereal and that morning the stock market surges.

    Sadly your statement that "eight years ago, he inherited a nearly failed state and now Russia, while it still has dangerous internal problems, is a force to be reckoned with on the international stage again" sounds very much like the Kremlin's propaganda of the kind exposed and destroyed here:

    La Russophobe said...

    On a tangent, I'm disappointed not to find post about the fate of Oleg Kozlovsky, a fellow blogger we should all be supporting.

    Anonymous said...

    Putin without any doubt has been one of the driving force focusing on change and stability in Russia.

    Polls showing him in the 60+ support bracket are without any doubt a fair reflection of his standing in Russia.

    By Comparison GW Bush has less the 25%, Victor Yushchenko, Ukraine's President's party at around 14%

    Economic growth in Russia will see Russia within 10-15 years match the economies of Germany and other Western Nations.

    Under Putin the focus of Russia has been building on economic strength training in the lawlessness chiao's left behind by his predecessor.

    Yes economies do and can develop without governments (Look at Ukraine) but an effective and stable government underpins economic growth and social development. There are certain things that can not be left to "market forces" or by chance.

    Anonymous said...

    It seems unlikely that Russia will be able to maintain economic growth at current levels for 10 to 15 years, which it would need to do to match the leading economies of the west. The economic situation in Russia is not at all stable, wage growth is negative in real terms, the trade surplus is shrinking as fast as it grew. Inflation is heading back towards hyper-inflation and price freezing will only make the pain even worse when the freezes have to be reversed. So yes now Russia is enjoying a 70s like resurgence - which almost completely destroyed them in 80s. I am glad to not be Russian, it must look good now but in a few years it's gonna suck.