Putin's Year

For many observers Russia's President Putin is one of the few winners of the year. 2016 is seen as a turning point when Moscow regained the status it enjoyed in the Soviet era - partly owing to the weakness of the EU.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Putin was the big winner

In the last year Moscow has reclaimed its place on the international stage, the Financial Times observes:

“Along the way, the glory of Russia appears to have been restored. Its president, Vladimir Putin, stands as one of the few victors in a year of breathtaking upheaval. From Aleppo to allegations of the hacking of the US election, the sense that Moscow has reclaimed the global power and relevance that it enjoyed during Soviet times is palpable. Against that, Barack Obama, the US president, has been marginalised. You might be forgiven for thinking that if any system is reeling from change, its stunned politicians struggling to keep up or busy clearing their desks, it is the western one.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Visibility should not be confused with power

Forbes Magazine was exaggerating when it ranked Putin as the world's most powerful person, political scientist Pascal Boniface argues in his blog with Mediapart:

“True, the Russian president dominated 2016. … But is he the most powerful person in the world? Certainly not. We shouldn't confuse visibility with power. Russia's gross domestic product amounts to just ten percent of the US's, and the same goes for military spending. … The most powerful man in the world is more likely the Chinese president, even though he doesn't make attention-grabbing statements. He is governing an economically healthy country and thanks to this economic success and the enhanced sense of national pride he is very popular among his people. Moreover unlike Moscow and Washington China, which regularly boosts its military power, hasn't allowed itself to be drawn into external conflicts.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Dividing the EU into east and west weakens it

The new dividing lines that have opened up between western and eastern Europe in the refugee debate have weakened the EU and strengthened Russia, Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“It's clear that ill-considered speeches on both sides are driving a wedge between the west and east in EU-Europe and weakening the EU's periphery. In Romania, which alongside Poland acts as a mainstay for Nato against the non-member countries of eastern Europe, post-communist oligarchs have returned to power. In the small states of the Balkans Moscow and Turkey's attempts to extend their influence are intersecting while Brussels' arm is growing weaker. The core states of the EU should bear in mind that nowhere else have more demonstrators risked their lives waving the EU flag than on Kiev's Maidan square. From the fringes of the EU it is often easier to see what makes Europe what it is than from its inner core: the democratic rule of law, strong institutions and clear security guarantees.”