#1 – Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (born 7 October 1952) has been the President of the Russian Federation since May 2012 and was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2000, President from 2000 to 2008, and again Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012. This means he’s been at the top of Russian politics for nearly two decades.
Putin began his career in the KGB as an intelligence officer in 1975 and quickly rose to the top ranks of the Russian government after joining President Boris Yeltsin’s administration in 1998. During Putin’s first presidency, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, thanks mainly to oil and other commodity price booms, which came to an end with the global financial crisis of 2008.
Putins personal wealth has been the subject of controversy, some people claiming he has abused his position of power for personal gain. It has been reported that several close associates of the president have large stakes in offshore companies worth over $2 billion and that he has other foreign investments taken out in friend’s names. Even if this is wholly or partially true, a personal wealth of $2 billion would place him well outside the top 100 richest individuals in the world.
So if he’s not one of the richest people in the world (at least officially) and is president of only the 11th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP, why is Vladimir Putin regarded as the most powerful person in the world? Because he has almost unilateral, unconstrained decision making capacity in a country that has huge military power and natural resources.