7 February 2014, 14:11

American conservatives like Putin for pragmatic realism in foreign policy – expert

American conservatives like Putin for pragmatic realism in foreign policy – expert

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands out as the most influential politician in the world in 2013 among a ranking of international leaders, carrying 76 percent of the vote in a survey of global media. As many as 175 news agencies and news media took part in the ratings. Mark Sleboda, Senior lecturer and researcher in international relations and security studies at the Moscow State Lomonosov University, in interview to the Voice of Russia explained why President Putin is so popular, and not only among Russians.

In your opinion, is this rating actually objective? Does this provide weight?

Is this objective? Well, it is just as objective, if not more so, than numerous other such type polls that seek to rank power, prestige, popularity among media and other qualities of political and cultural figures around the world. We’ve seen also this year that Forbes rated President Putin as the most powerful man in the world. The Time Magazine conducted similar polls. This is a poll that was actually conducted in media organizations – 175 media organizations in some 85 countries.

Why should we be concerned about what the media thinks about who are the world’s top political, cultural and scientific figures? That’s kind of a rhetorical question I’ve posed because the media in general shapes much of the reality of the world as we know it. So, whether such polls are objective, it depends on your views the media and the validity of their opinions and their ability to shape our opinions.

Certainly, the results of this poll quite predictably have not even been reported in the Western press, being conducted by a Russian media organization. But we see that it is being reported in much of the rest of the world, which does show quite clearly a divide between the media in the West and in the rest.

Aright! Let’s then discuss the second key question – why do you think it is Mr. Putin who is the most popular politician according to 175 news agencies.

It would take a very bleak argument to present that Putin has not had a rather remarkable year, particularly in terms of foreign policy achievements for Russia. On the top of that list is forcing the US President Barack Obama to radically shift the position from a military attack on Syria into accepting this stand-down which involved Syria dismantling its chemical weapons and chemical weapons infrastructure. The fact that a war was averted is a pretty significant event in the world this year.

Other events certainly include the Ukrainian Government switching towards a Russian bailout deal instead of the EU association agreement. Soon it will be the Sochi Olympics. Even the US-Iranian dialog and rapprochement on nuclear weapons in no small part owes its success to Russia’s continued position on this regard and their diplomacy.

So, despite the fact that actually Putin has received also a lot of criticism in the Western press, he still remains popular.

Again, I think this is the divide between the West and the West’s perception of Putin and the rest of the world, and the way the rest of the world regards President Putin, not just Russia, where he of course continues to be extremely popular with 65% approval ratings that would be envied by any Western leader, but throughout the rest of the world which doesn’t necessarily adhere to the Western media’s point of view.

And the rest of the world takes a look at what President Putin has accomplished, both for Russia and on the international stage in the last year, and I think it would be hard to say that he is not among the top politicians. And they’ve decided that he ranks number one. He outpolled such figures as the new Catholic Pope Francis, of whom, interestingly enough, it is rather difficult to say whether he qualifies as a political figure rather than a religious figure, and Angela Merkel of Germany.

How about a weird question? If we hypothetically imagine that Putin were to run in presidential elections in the US, what kind of rating would he get?

That’s a rather interesting hypothetic question you’ve posed. I have to say that President Putin would probably lose simply for the fact that he is Russian. But it should be noted that there has been quite an amount of approval recently of President Putin, particularly among conservatives in the US.

Especially after his op-ed in the NY Times.

Yes, in the NY Times and also the prominent conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan has on several times written articles. We’ve seen quite an interest among American conservatives in President Putin not only for his social-conservative views, which perhaps is the biggest part of it, but also for his pragmatic realism in his foreign policy and, what is quite obvious, his improvement of Russia’s both economic situation for its citizens and its place in the world in the last few years. His prioritization of a realistic segment of the Russian national interests has won him some plaudits even among his critics in the West.

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