TIME’s Person of the Year 2007: Vladimir Putin

Time Magazine announced Vladimir Putin as the Person of the Year for 2007. As much as I was a bit surprised by the choice, I was not taken aback. To keep things in perspective the selected person is the one that has the most impact on the year.

TIME’s Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world–for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership–bold, earth-changing leadership.

I have personally never been a fan of Putin. There is a lot of the communist era scary baggage coming along with him to make me feel comfortable. Russia is slightly better off than despotic communist China when it comes to human rights and freedom of speech. [link]

However to Putin’s defense…

When this intense and brooding KGB agent took over as President of Russia in 2000, he found a country on the verge of becoming a failed state. With dauntless persistence, a sharp vision of what Russia should become and a sense that he embodied the spirit of Mother Russia, Putin has put his country back on the map. And he intends to redraw it himself. Though he will step down as Russia’s President in March, he will continue to lead his country as its Prime Minister and attempt to transform it into a new kind of nation, beholden to neither East nor West.

However all through his presidency he has been in the limelight for all the negatives.

Putin is not a boy scout. He is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability–stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years. Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather prepared blinis–who himself was twice TIME’s Person of the Year–or like Peter the Great, the historical figure he most admires; whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression–this we will know only over the next decade.

In a year that saw the environment coming on to center stage and Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize because of his efforts, it is a poignant reminder that politics and politicians still have a central hold over the destinies of nations and mankind. I just hope that as he reincarnates himself in a new role in the Russian political circus, his next decade is more transparent and less autocratic than his first one in power.

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