December 15, 2022

Putin is pretty much the unanimous choice this year around the world. For the Atlantic Council, an American think tank, it was certainly an easy choice.

Source: Atlantic Council

For the first time since the event was launched a decade ago, Vladimir Putin will not hold his flagship end-of-year press marathon this month. The surprise cancellation is the latest indication that all is not well in the Kremlin. For the past ten years, Putin’s annual press marathon has been a carefully curated propaganda spectacle allowing the Russian dictator to demonstrate his mastery of world affairs. However, with his invasion of Ukraine unraveling amid unprecedented losses and mounting military defeats, Putin is clearly in no mood to face even the most docile of audiences.

While Putin hides from the cameras, his arch-rival is ending the year on a wave of international acclaim. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already been named Person of the Year by an ever-expanding list of media outlets including TIME magazine and the Financial Times newspaper, and is now being routinely touted as one of the world’s most influential politicians. Zelenskyy’s rising profile is recognition of his wartime leadership and also reflects global admiration for Ukraine’s courageous resistance to the Russian invasion.

The contrasting fortunes of the Russian and Ukrainian leaders underline the self-defeating folly of Putin’s decision to launch Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II. His original plan envisaged a short and victorious war that would extinguish Ukrainian independence and force the country permanently back into the Kremlin orbit. Instead, he now finds himself an international pariah with his country’s reputation as a military superpower in tatters and his Ukrainian enemies looking forward with growing confidence to the very real prospect of an historic victory in the coming year. By almost any measure, Vladimir Putin is comfortably the biggest loser of 2022.

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