Nick Cohen in The Guardian:
This has been the year of Vladimir Putin's ascendancy. The Russian president has made Barack Obama look like a conman's stooge – a lame duck president so weak that he can barely waddle to the pond. Putin has managed to protect his client dictatorship in Syria – even after it broke one of the few taboos limiting man's inhumanity to man by using chemical weapons. He has Edward Snowden, perhaps the most damaging leaker in recent history, under the vigilant eyes of his secret police in Moscow. He has out-manoeuvred the pro-European demonstrators in Kiev and bought off the Ukrainian government.
At home, his control over the state and civil society is so complete that he can afford to play the merciful tsar and release dissidents and his former rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
magazine was not making a mistake when it called Putin the world's most powerful person in 2013....
More at The Guardian
h/t Terry Glavin