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Putin’s strongman fan club

Vladimir Putin: “strongman nationalist” trendsetter. Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty

Vladimir Putin has plenty of fans among the world’s strongman leaders, says Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has said that “Putin has made his country great again”. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has described him as a “hero” and his favourite world leader. As Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman rose to power, advisors noted his “awestruck admiration” for Putin. In the West, Donald Trump’s approval of the Russian leader was “coy” – but less ambiguous was Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s hard-right League, who “posed for photos in Red Square wearing a Putin T-shirt”.

When Putin came to power in 1999, the former KGB man looked like an “anomaly” in an era of “technocratic globalists”. But with his “strongman nationalist” model now being emulated across the world, he seems more like “a man who foresaw the future of global politics” than a tsar-like “relic”. That’s one of the great dangers of him getting his way in Ukraine: if he is seen to emerge victorious over the Western democracies, his style of leadership will gain even more prestige and imitators. He may even determine the future “tone” of world politics.