Vladimir Putin is Forbes' most powerful person of 2013. The Russian president beats out President Barack Obama, who is listed as the second most powerful person, followed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pope Francis, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This is the first time Putin has taken the top honor on Forbes' list
and the second time the president of the United States – the leader of the most powerful nation in the world – has fallen to second. In 2010 former Chinese President Hu Jintao took top honors.
The rating comes at a time when Obama appears to be prematurely entering his lame duck period – the last two years of a two term presidency.
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In its assessment, the financial magazine asks: "Who’s more powerful: the autocratic leader of a former superpower or the handcuffed commander in chief of the most dominant country in the world?"
The answer is apparently the "autocratic leader of a former superpower."
Forbes points to Putin's solidification of his power in Russia contrasted with Obama's apparent premature lame duck status as the reason for their selection in this year's list.
Examples of Obama's apparent weakness are "the government shutdown mess" and the Syrian conflict, according to Forbes.
"Anyone watching this year’s chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics," the financial magazine wrote.
Obama had backed down from his threat to use force against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons on civilians in the country's civil war, which he had previously described as a red line that if crossed would have consequences for the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Putin, an ally of al-Assad, successfully resolved the matter by convincing the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles, thereby avoiding U.S. force that would have crippled his ally – al-Assad regime – and allowing Obama an out to avoid following through on a threat that was extremely unpopular among the American populace.
According to many Middle East analysts, Putin achieved his overall goal which was to keep the al-Assad regime in power, while Obama's credibility took a shot considering he did not follow through on a commitment he made.
In September, an Economist/YouGov survey showed that more Americans thought Putin
was a far more effective leader than Obama in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis.
In addition, the president is also suffering on the domestic front from the ever-growing Obamacare website debacle while facing an increasing surge of disapproval from the citizenry, with a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama's approval numbers have hit a record low
According to the poll, only 42 percent approve of Obama's job performance, down 5 points from early October, while 51 percent disapprove of his performance – a tie for his all-time high disapproval rating.
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The poll also revealed that for the first time the president's personal disapproval rating exceeded his personal approval rating with 45 percent of American polled disapproving of him on a personal level and just 41 percent approving of him.
When you factor in the rising tide of opposition on the home front, with the perceived geopolitical weakness on the world stage, the decision by Forbes to put Obama in second place might not be so difficult to comprehend.
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