Russian President Vladimir Putin was once again chosen by Forbes as the world’s most-powerful person, successfully defending his title from last year. Putin shot Russia to the front of the world stage in early 2014 when he led Russia’s occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and clashed with Western leaders over allegedly supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. President Barack Obama came in at No. 2 behind Putin. General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel round out the top five. They were also the top names last year. It's the sixth iteration of Forbes’ “The World’s 72 Most Powerful People” list.
Putin may be No. 1, but Forbes wasn’t exactly glowing in its review of the Russian leader: “No one would call Vladimir Putin, a good guy,” Forbes’ Caroline Howard wrote. “In 2014, he strong-armed his way into possession of Crimea and waged an ugly proxy war in neighboring Ukraine, during which an almost certainly Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile downed a civilian jetliner. As the undisputed, unpredictable and unaccountable head of an energy-rich, nuclear-tipped state, no one would ever call him weak.”
Putin has faced off with Europe and the U.S. over the Ukrainian conflict, which has actually boosted his approval ratings among the Russian public. Western economic sanctions threaten to destabilize Putin's Russia, but with the FIFA World Cup coming to Russia in 2018 and claims of massive swaths of energy reserves, it doesn't look like Putin or Russia are going anywhere anytime fast.
“Several factors were taken into account to select the 72 people that matter from the 7.2 billion people on the planet: the amount of money they control; the number of people they impact; their total spheres of influence; and how actively they wield their power,” according to Forbes.
There are 26 Americans on the list, but 19 from what Forbes calls the “Asia Pacific region,” indicating a growth in world power in that area. There are nine women, including two in the top 10 for the first time. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen came in as the sixth most-powerful person in the world, just behind Merkel. The two youngest on the list are 30-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at No. 22 and North Korea’s 31-year-old leader Kim Jong-un at No. 49.