One of Britain’s most influential newspapers has named Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘Man of the Year.’ The Times awarded the title because Putin “succeeded in one of his most enduring ambitions: to bring Moscow back to the international high table.”
According to the newspaper, it was the Syrian insurgency that “propelled the president back into the front ranks of effective world statesmen,” when he managed to steer the West away from military intervention. He then used the escalating conflict to boost Russia’s clout on the international stage.
“The narrow, but achievable and worthy aim of taking apart President Assad’s chemical arsenal was a face-saver for the West. And it established Mr Putin as a Middle East player once again; for Arab leaders and the Iranians he was suddenly the man who knew how to head off Western-led regime change,” The Times said.
Putin’s approach of rejecting the use of force and promoting political dialogue and compromise has proved fruitful in the Middle East. Syria, in its turn, has agreed to relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons amid accusations that Damascus used sarin gas against rebel forces. The Russia-brokered deal cut short Washington’s intention to use military force against Syria in retaliation for the alleged attack.
“In Syria the world community had to make a joint and fateful decision. It was either the continuation of the degradation of the world order, the rule of the right of might, the right of the fist, the multiplication of chaos. Or to collectively take responsible decisions,” Putin said earlier this month while addressing the Federal Assembly.
Apart from his key diplomatic victory in Syria, one of President Putin’s largest achievements in 2013 came when he “wrestled the EU to the ground on Ukraine,” according to The Times. However, Russia’s decision to invest US$15 billion in ‘brotherly’ Ukraine and grant a generous $7 billion gas discount was pragmatic and based on economic facts, Putin stressed at his annual press conference. The leader noted that Russia expects a five percent return on bond investments, stating that if Ukraine abandons Russia entirely for the EU, it would become an “appendage” to the European economy and would see a sharp drop.
The Times mentioned that Putin also “claims the laurels for releasing people – from the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky to the Pussy Riot performers.” President Putin has pardoned the former oil tycoon after a decade of imprisonment, citing humanitarian reasons.
The two jailed Pussy Riot members, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who were serving two-year terms for hooliganism, were also released under a massive amnesty earlier this month. Both were sentenced over their ‘punk prayer’ performance in a Russian Orthodox Christian cathedral. The prisoners’ release was applauded by the international community and human rights groups.
Taking a short break from praise, The Times moved on to mention Putin’s lack of success in dealing with terrorism in the Caucasus. However, the paper added that the recent bombings might be used to consolidate both Russian and international support, as a pre-Sochi crackdown on Islamic radicals in the region is underway.
Putin was chosen as ‘Man of the Year’ by Russia’s independent Levada Center for the sixth year in a row on Saturday. He was also a nominee for Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ award, though that title was ultimately given to Pope Francis, who is known as the ‘People’s Pope, on December 11.
Putin graced Time magazine’s front cover with the same title in 2007, saying the year had been his “most successful yet.” Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden came in second, for having “pulled off the year’s most spectacular heist.” Earlier this month, Foreign Policy voted Edward Snowden as being the top ‘Global Thinker’ of 2013. The move was clearly backed by RT online readers, 55 percent of whom said in a poll at the time of publishing that the whistleblower deserved the title.