Vanity Loves Vlad

Vladimir Putin just keeps racking up the accolades.  As everyone will remember, Time magazine caused a stir when it named VVP Person of the Year 2007. Now Vanity Fair has named him Numero Uno on its The New Establishment 2008 list.  VF‘s blurb on Vlad the Invader,

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE: After eight years as Russia’s president, Putin’s still at the height of his power. He saw his approval ratings top 80 percent, thanks to an economy revived through energy profits, which has made it easier for him to get away with his antipathy to free speech and other civil liberties—he controls the media and imprisons or exiles his enemies. And cashing in on Russia’s natural resources has enabled Putin to pay off the nation’s foreign debt, rebuild its military, restore its pride, and re-assert its place in world affairs. Faced with presidential-term limits, Putin, 56, sustained his formidable power by becoming prime minister and leader of the overwhelmingly dominant United Russia party. He also all but installed his longtime protégé and former campaign manager, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as Russia’s new president through a reportedly rigged March election. But by all accounts Putin was the commander in chief in its recent foray into Georgia.

ENEMIES: Georgia and former chess champion Garry Kasparov, who is the leader of the opposition coalition Other Russia and has had the nerve to challenge Putin’s iron rule.

RUMOR HAS IT: Putin has secretly stashed away more than $40 billion (from Russia’s oil-and-gas riches) in secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

EVIDENCE OF POSSIBLE LACK OF MODESTY: Putin’s exhibitionistic tendency to go shirtless (and show off his buff, hairless physique to photographers) while fishing with Monaco’s Prince Albert II or hunting in the Siberian mountains.

SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT: Putin has done little to rein in the country’s ruling kleptocracy. In a recent call to analysts, Rupert Murdoch said, “The more I read about investments in Russia, the less I like the feel of it. The more successful we’d be, the more vulnerable we’d be to have it stolen from us.”

And when you consider all the above, his pecs, and his hunting skills, what a mensch!