Foreign Policy Blogs

Putin’s Incredible Victory


Putin in 2010. Photo Credit: Prime Minister’s Office


Who’s the only world leader able to stand among the ranks of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift? No, not Kim Jong Un, or his Twitter parody account. The answer is, as you probably guessed from the title, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to the TIME 100 readers poll, the controversial Russian leader claimed the number one spot with approximately 6.95 percent of the votes. Joining him in the top five were mostly pop artists — Korean singer CL of the group 2NE1, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift. Putin wasn’t the only non-entertainer in the top ten at least, as he was joined by Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai.

Oddly, over 57 percent of the votes for Putin came from within the United States. English-language state-owned media channel RT noted that this demonstrated the leader’s ability to seize the top spot demonstrated his “rock star credentials” and “all the more incredible” given where the majority of the votes came from.

The implications are interesting, albeit not tremendously surprising. “Influence” is a somewhat morally neutral concept, so now matter how Russian state-owned media tries to spin it, it’s not a sign Americans are beholden to Putin. If anything, it’s probably the opposite.

According to a Pew Research poll from late February, Americans are increasingly in favor of sending arms to Ukraine and taking a more aggressive stance toward the country. A majority (53 percent) still oppose arms shipments to the country, but it’s a significant drop from one year prior (62 percent). A majority of Americans prefer sanctions (60 percent said they support upping economic sanctions), and they’re split on whether the U.S. should train Ukrainian troops (49 percent favor, 46 percent oppose).

The results aren’t all that surprising. The so-called Russian reset is recent history, and there’s still an ongoing debate as to whether crumbling relations are a sign of a new Cold War, a sign that conflict that spurred the Cold War was never truly resolved, or that the term “Cold War” is grossly inaccurate altogether. To some extent, that debate is reflective of public opinion: More Americans view Russia as a “serious problem” than as an “adversary.”

In short, is Putin’s TIME 100 sweep notable? Maybe. Surprising? Not in the least.



Hannah Gais

Hannah is assistant editor at the Foreign Policy Association, a nonresident fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and the managing editor of Her work has appeared in a number of national and international publications, including Al Jazeera America, U.S. News and World Report, First Things, The Moscow Times, The Diplomat, Truthout, Business Insider and Foreign Policy in Focus.

Gais is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, where she focused on Eastern Christian Theology and European Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @hannahgais