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Bouquets and brickbats for Person of the Year from Time

Time Magazine has crowned the Russian President “Person of the Year”. While it praises Putin's role in ensuring stability in Russia, it criticises his record on developing democracy. The editors say the award is not about honour, but it's abou

“He's returned Russia from chaos to the ‘table of world power’” – that's one of the reasons given by America's Time magazine for making Russian President Vladimir Putin “Person of the Year” for 2007.

Putin’s steely gaze stares out from the cover, and it’s his sharp vision and dauntless persistence that editors say made this year's decision an obvious one. Time magazine’s Deputy Managing Editor Adi Ignatius travelled to Moscow to interview Russia’s President.

“He has a certain stature because of longevity, because of the relative success he's had leading Russia and because he stands for a foreign policy that's very different from America's, at a point where America's influence in the world has fallen”.

President Putin joins a formidable list of Russian leaders to be awarded the title. Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Yury Andropov and Mikhail Gorbachev were all named Time's person of the year, some even twice.

But Mr. Putin is being recognised for doing something his predecessor couldn't: bringing stability to Russia, reviving a country suffering from decades of despair, while simultaneously earning a seat back at the table of world power.

“What Putin stands for primarily is ‘let’s not interfere in each other's affairs, let's look for joint UN solutions to problems’. A few years ago that perspective didn't carry the day. America as a superpower leaned forward and said ‘we're going to Iraq whether the UN is with us or not’. I think Putin's point of view is now in the ascendancy,” Adi Ignatius thinks.

Time magazine challenges Mr. Putin's position on free speech and questions his democratic principals. But at the same time gives credit to a man they say dominated news headlines and created waves in 2007.

The editors at Time magazine say being crowned person of the year is not an endorsement and it’s not about honour. They say it's about leadership – bold leadership, Earth-changing leadership and according to Time magazine, President Putin is the man who personified that role in 2007.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, says the decision to name Putin 'person of the year' is a reflection of his prominence in world events over the last twelve months:

“The distinction simply means that this is the person who has caused the greatest impact on the news for real during the course of the year. Some very prominent people have got it but not because they were engaged in beneficent acts, I think it’s a recognition that this is the most newsworthy person of the year”.

Bolton believes Time’s awarding the title to Putin will result in a lot of people in the U.S. focusing on President Putin, including some who, perhaps, have not focused on him before.

“I think the reaction many people will have is to the change of democratic institutions in Russia,” he added.

If you take to the streets you’ll find a mixture of opinions among the Americans about Time's controversial pick.

Some say it’s a good choice and name Russia an economically strong country, believing it justified to give credit to the country’s leader. Others argue that the choice could probably have been better as Putin doesn't come to their mind as person of the year. And some people confess they didn't have a clue, asking who’s there on the magazine’s cover.

While conferring the title, Time is predicting another one: the magazine believes President Putin will soon become Prime Minister Putin, jointly leading a new kind of nation, beholden to neither East nor West, but none the less an influential force worldwide.

To read the transcript of the interview please follow the link

President Bush’s comments

There were mixed comments worldwide on Time's decision, the most recent being the comment of U.S. President George W. Bush.

“I haven’t read the article but I presume they’ve put him [Vladimir Putin] because he is a consequential leader. And the fundamental question is: consequential to what end? What will the country [Russia] look like in years from now? 

My hope, of course, is that Russia is a country that understands that there need to be checks and balances, free and fair elections and very good press. That they understand western values based on human rights and human dignity – values that would lead to a better country. These are my hopes. And the speculations to whether or not he will be the Prime Minister – I don’t know if he is, I haven’t talked to him about it. And till it happens I think we’d better just wait and see,” President Bush said.