What Makes A Strong World Leader? Putin vs POTUS

A recent poll shows that 78% of Americans think Russian President Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than US President Barack Obama. The poll was taken after Russian forces’ incursion into Crimea, but days before officially absorbing the region. Why Putin is considered stronger than Obama isn’t in the numbers, but a similar poll identified that Americans are much more likely to use words like “bold,” “strong,” and “experienced” to describe Putin, while using words like “inspiring” and “sincere” to describe Obama.

What’s Obama doing wrong? He’s sending money to Kiev and imposing some sanctions against Russia’s oligarchs, but last week promised on local San Diego TV “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine.” That’s great.

Here’s what Obama’s not doing: Firing guns. Singing Blueberry Hill. Inspiring superhero comic strips:

The martial arts uniform is a bold choice, Vladimir. That’s a lot of look.

But will our next bid for President embody the tough MOFO image Putin wears so well? Although we don’t have any announcements for who’s running for POTUS 2016, some potential candidates are making foreign policy points out of Ukraine. Take a look at their responses scored on the new, tirelessly and scientifically rigorous Putin-o-meter, which ranks leaders’ perceived strength on a scale of 1 to Putin.


  • As former Secretary of State, Clinton is tethered to Obama’s first-term attempts to press the reset button on US-Russian relations. However her rhetoric has been much tougher on the Ukraine crisis. In what could be nominated “sound bite of the week,” she compared Putin’s actions in the region to “what Hitler did back in the ’30s.”
  • Her emphasis has been on strengthening relations with pro-European Kiev beyond Obama’s financial support. Like the Russian leader, she understands the strategic and also psychological value of Ukraine in a potential second Cold War.
  • Although she’s experienced (one of those Putin buzzwords), can Hillary be tough? She’s got the bark, but that doesn’t always infer bite.


And that’s why Clinton only scores a 6 on the Putin-o-meter power-perceptor scale.



  • On Ukraine, he’s isolationist at best. He doesn’t support giving aid to Kiev in case Ukrainians choose to use it to repay prior debts to the Russians. During the protests in Kiev, before Russia ever marched into Crimea, Paul said to the Washington Post “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea.”
  • Yet post-invasion, Paul waffled. In a Time op-ed piece he wrote “It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s latest aggression.” Pick a position and stick with it, Paul. This flip-flopping is BS and everyone knows it.
  • While Paul’s been tough and loud on Obama’s policies (a libertarian, Paul is part of the Tea Party movement), he’s not showing that hard line Americans want to see in response to the situation in Ukraine.


For waffling in foreign policy, Paul gets a 3 on the Putin-O-Meter.



  •  Christie’s still dealing with Bridgegate and a slew of criticism since then. He hasn’t really had the time to comment on Ukraine. OR MAYBE he’s just playing the strong, silent type.


Putin would probably kick Christie’s ass any day, so we have to give Christie a 0. Sorry buddy, better luck next time.



  • Biden has the longest political career of any potential 2016 candidate, so he undoubtedly has the experience.
  • He’s the blue collar dream candidate; he’ll even drop some F-bombs. When he was in the Senate (he’s served 7 terms between 1972 and 2008), Biden was often ranked as one of the least wealthy members of Congress, due to his inability to be bought via political contribution. One might infer he takes the least from political capitalism.
  • Since the Ukraine crisis Biden has been touring countries of the former Eastern Bloc that are now NATO-allied, such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Poland, and offering alliance against Russian aggression. He’s on the phone with Moscow. He’s getting shit done.


And it’s for that get ‘er done approach that Biden earns an 8 on the Putin-o-meter.



  • His martial arts skills probably equal Putin’s own. When Ryan ran alongside Romney in 2012, he had only 6% body fat due to his tireless conditioning and P90X-ing (which sounds like a prescription for pain).
  • However, Ryan’s push last fall for a bipartisan budget plan would be too much compromise for the Russian dominant-party system (btw, that would be the United Russia Party, which is Putin’s party).
  • Ryan’s tactic in Ukraine would be to increase sanctions drastically beyond Obama’s current implementation. He wants to send more natural gas to Ukraine (currently Russia’s main pipeline flows to Europe through Ukraine) to help make the case for sanctions. Also, to help make the case for the Keystone XL pipeline. Sneaky, Ryan. Very sneaky. But is it KGB spy sneaky?


Add it all up, and Ryan scores a 7 on the Putin-o-meter. Mostly because of his unquestionable ability to throw a harder punch. Zip! Pow!


Read more on LD about Russian policy in Ukraine.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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