Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Outta Here Like Vladimir
I'm not sure if Vladimir Putin is really Man of the Year, as Time Magazine maintains. But if there were a MVL (Most Valuable Leader) award along the lines of the MVP in professional sports, he'd certainly be high in the running this year. Between his bellicose rhetoric on American missile defense, his high-stakes maneuvering on Iran, his suspension of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, and his reintroduction of long-range bomber sorties and Russian navy flotillas on the high seas, about the only thing Vlad didn't do this year was bang his shoe on a desk at the UN.
There's also a pretty strong argument to be made that he's about ready for a Lifetime Achievement award, too. Judging by his human rights record, the guy's a psychopath, it's true. But if you compare the bareknuckled arena of realpolitik to the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Putin's Royce Gracie. It's hard to think of another leader over the past ten years who has consolidated his or her country's position as effectively as Putin. Tony Blair comes close, but the Iraq War put a pretty big black mark on any assessment of his tenure. Meanwhile, neither Chirac, Schroeder, Berlusconi, or Aznar comes close to measuring up. He's had a bunch of help, ranging from George W. Bush's decision to run America into the ground, to the massive influx of oil and gas revenues. But like it or not, Putin's been at the helm for a pretty incredible turnaround in Russia's geopolitical fortunes.
Meanwhile, the difference between Time's gimmicky pick last year and their selection this year is sobering: viral videos on the one hand, ruthless realpolitik on the other. It's almost as if the shock of 9/11 is beginning to wear off and, in looking around, America's suddenly realizing that while we've been squandering our political capital, there are other countries out there who have been slowly but steadily building their's up.
What a difference a year makes.