Putin Is Time’s ‘Person of the Year’
magazine has decided to celebrate “order before freedom,” as the newsweekly put it, with its “person of the year” selection, because “if Russia succeeds as a nation-state in the family of nations, it will owe much of that success to one man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
Although careful to point out that the title is “not an endorsement” and “Putin is not a boy scout,” Time’s tribute to the Russian leader begins with an ode to his “pale blue eyes,” so it appears that at least some degree of fandom is at work here.
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No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin’s. The Russian President’s pale blue eyes are so cool, so devoid of emotion that the stare must have begun as an affect, the gesture of someone who understood that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking. The affect is now seamless, which makes talking to the Russian President not just exhausting but often chilling. It’s a gaze that says, I’m in charge.
On why it chose Putin:
Russia lives in history — and history lives in Russia. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union cast an ominous shadow over the world. It was the U.S.’s dark twin. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia receded from the American consciousness as we became mired in our own polarized politics. And it lost its place in the great game of geopolitics, its significance dwarfed not just by the U.S. but also by the rising giants of China and India. That view was always naive. Russia is central to our world — and the new world that is being born. It is the largest country on earth; it shares a 2,600-mile (4,200-km) border with China; it has a significant and restive Islamic population; it has the world’s largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and a lethal nuclear arsenal; it is the world’s second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia; and it is an indispensable player in whatever happens in the Middle East. For all these reasons, if Russia fails, all bets are off for the 21st century. And if Russia succeeds as a nation-state in the family of nations, it will owe much of that success to one man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
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