It’s far from scientific, but less than 24 hours after Republicans appeared to defeat US president Barack Obama in midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections, Russian president Vladimir Putin defeated him to the top spot on Forbes‘s 72 Most Powerful People in the World.
The rankings don’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things, of course.
The Forbes rationale?
We took some heat last year when we named the Russian President as the most powerful man in the world, but after a year when Putin annexed Crimea, staged a proxy war in the Ukraine and inked a deal to build a more than $70 billion gas pipeline with China (the planet’s largest construction project) our choice simply seems prescient. Russia looks more and more like an energy-rich, nuclear-tipped rogue state with an undisputed, unpredictable and unaccountable head unconstrained by world opinion in pursuit of its goals.
Hard to argue with that, I guess.
But the rankings represent a nice snapshot of what the US (and even international) media mainstream believe to be the hierarchy of global power. Though I’m not sure why Mitch McConnell, soon to become the U.S. senate majority leader, isn’t on the list.
So who else placed in the sphere of world politics this year?
- Obama ranked at No. 2 (From the Forbes mystics: ‘One word sums up his second place finish: caution. He has the power but has been too cautious to fully exercise it.’).
- Chinese president Xi Jinping, who took office in late 2012 and early 2013, ranked at No. 3. (Tough break for the leader of the world’s most populous country!)
- Pope Francis, ranked at No. 4, even though Argentina lost this year’s World Cup finals to Germany.
- Angela Merkel, ranked at No. 5, third-term chancellor of Germany and the queen of the European Union.
- Janet Yellen, ranked at No. 6, the chair of the US Federal Reserve.
- Mario Draghi, ranked at No. 8, the president of the European Central Bank.
- David Cameron, ranked (appropriately enough) at No. 10, the Conservative prime minister of the United Kingdom, who faces a tough reelection battle in May 2015.
- Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, No. 11, the king of Saudi Arabia.
- Li Keqiang, No. 13, China’s premier.
- Narendra Modi, No. 15, India’s wildly popular new prime minister.
- François Hollande, No. 17, France’s wildly unpopular president.
- Ali Khamenei, No. 19, Iran’s supreme leader, especially as Iranian nuclear talks come to a crucial deadline this month.
- Michael Bloomberg, No. 23, more due to his role in business than his political position as a moderate independent and former three-term mayor of New York City.
- Benjamin Netanyahu, No. 26, Israel’s prime minister. Though don’t call him a ‘chickenshit.’
- Dilma Rousseff, No. 31, the recently reelected president of Brazil.
- Christine Lagarde, No. 33, the head of the International Monetary Fund.
- Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, No. 37, the hereditary ruler of the United Arab Emirates.
- Ban Ki-Moon, No. 40, the secretary-general of the United Nations. Ouch.
- Bill Clinton, No. 44, the former US president from 1993 to 2001. But where’s his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former New York senator and US secretary of state who will almost certainly be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016?
- Jim Yong Kim, No. 45, the head of the World Bank.
- Park Geun-hye, No. 46, the president of the always-impressive South Korea.
- Alexey Miller, No. 47, the president of Russia’s dominant Gazprom.
- Haruhiko Kuroda, No. 48, the head of the Bank of Japan.
- Kim Jong-un, No. 49, the leader of North Korea (for now at least, until he disappears again).
- Ali Al-Naimi, No. 50, the Saudi oil minister who has more of a say on global prices than just about anyone this side of Venezuela.
- Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, No. 51, Egypt’s newly ‘elected‘ autocratic military president-cum-pharoh.
- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, No. 54, the leader of the Islamic State group that controls parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq.
- Enrique Peña Nieto, No. 60, the Mexican president who introduced reforms providing for greater liberalization and foreign investment in Pemex, the state oil company, and who hopes to enact further reforms.
- Shinzo Abe, No. 63, the beleaguered prime minister of Japan who hasn’t quite been able to shoot the third (or fourth) arrow of Abenomics.
- John Roberts, No. 65, the chief justice of the US Supreme Court.