NEW YORK - Having outfoxed him on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pipped Barack Obama to the title of the world’s most powerful leader as ranked by Forbes on Wednesday.
It was the first time in three years that the US president has dropped to second place on the magazine’s list and came as US-Russia relations slid to a new low.
Putin, who has enjoyed 13 years of dominant rule over Russia, was again elected president in March 2012. Obama, on the other hand, has just emerged scathed from an embarrassing 16-day US government shutdown caused by a budget and debt crisis in Washington.
“Putin has solidified his control over Russia, while Obama’s lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess,” wrote Forbes. In August, Russia granted asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, wanted in the United States over a mammoth intelligence leak.
A month later, Putin played the trump card again by averting Obama’s threatened missile strikes on Syria with a plan for Damascus to hand over chemical weapons. “Anyone watching this year’s chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics,” Forbes wrote.
The 2013 list of 72 powerbrokers was chosen to reflect one for every 100 million lesser mortals on Earth.
Third prize went to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to rule for a decade in which China is set to eclipse the US as the world’s largest economy.
Pope Francis made his debut at number four and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounded out the top five.
Among 13 newcomers were Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee at number 41 and Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, in at number 64.
There were 17 heads of state who run nations with a combined GDP of $48 trillion and 27 CEOs and chairs who control over $3 trillion in annual revenues.
This year there are nine women on the list, representing 12% of the world’s most powerful - in stark contrast to being 50% of the world’s population. Both 2011 and 2012 featured six women leaders, and the inaugural list from 2009 included only 3 - or just 4.4%. Recently elected Park of South Korea joins the other female heads of state German Chancellor Angela Merkel at number 50, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff at number 20 and de facto head of India Sonia Gandhi at number. 21. Two of the world’s most important NGO’s are run by women: Christine Lagarde number 35 leads the IMF and Margaret Chan at number 59 steers the World Health Organization.
The Forbes Most Powerful started in 2009, seeking to answer a straight yet complex question: What is the true nature of power and can we really compare and rank heads of state with religious figures and drug traffickers? The premise has always been to select one person for every 100 million on the planet. The first list had 67 slots. This year’s list was up to 72. At this fifth edition, it’s notable that most of the leaders who made the top 10 on the inaugural list are still on today: Obama, Putin, Bill Gates at number 6, US. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke at number 7, the King of Saudi Arabia at number 8, Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke at number 10, richest man in the world Carlos Slim Helu at number12, Page and Brin, and Rupert Murdoch at number 33. The entire list can be seen at www.forbes.com/power