ALTHOUGH it will not be popular in the United States or Britain, Time magazine's choice of Vladimir Putin as its Person of the Year makes a great deal of sense. In the first place 2007 has not exactly been a great year for political leaders or in the arts and sciences; Al Gore stood out and Time made him its runner-up for the award but Putin's achievements have been more broadbased and influential. Time is always at pains to point out that its Person of the Year award is not an honour or an endorsement - it simply recognises the person who has made the greatest impact on the world, for better or worse. However, there is no need to make any apology for naming President Putin.
When he took over Russia in 2000 the country was on its knees; in a mere eight years he has restored its self-respect and made it important again in the world's councils.
Only a very shortsighted person would think that a weak Russia is preferable to a strong one.
That Putin has not played the democratic game by Western rules is undeniable but he knew his first priority was to restore stability and he has been successful in reaching that objective.
He has also done the West a favour by manoeuvring to become prime minister after he leaves the presidency. Better the devil you know...