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Russian president pledges economic reforms as he takes office for another six years

Their fawning is often discounted, ascribed to under-the-table payments or other stealthy Russian efforts. He has achieved this prominence because he anticipated the global populist revolt and helped give it ideological shape.

13. Park Geun-hye

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, vying to resurrect his career, sprinted away from his own history of slagging the Russian strongman. On a trip to St. Petersburg in June, he made a point of stopping for a photo op with Putin, pumping his hand and smiling broadly. And then he is so Russian! As French book sales reveal, the public has an apparently bottomless appetite for polemics that depict the country plummeting to its doom. The gloom is xenophobic, but also self-loathing.

Right-wing polemicists bellow that France will squander its revolutionary tradition and cultural heritage without lifting a finger to save itself. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the new populism cannot be wholly attributed to economic displacement. In a short period of time, the West has undergone a major cultural revolution—an influx of immigrants and a movement toward a new egalitarianism.

It seemed that the culture wars had been extinguished, that the forces of progress had won an unmitigated victory. These voters feel stigmatized as intolerant and bigoted for even entertaining such anger—and their rage grows.

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Their alienation and fear of civilizational collapse have eroded their faith in democracy, and created a yearning for a strongman who can stave off catastrophe. Gay marriage is a divisive issue in France, where Fillon has vowed to block adoption by same-sex couples. Putin has inverted the Cold War narrative. Back in Soviet times, the West was the enemy of godlessness. American conservatives are struggling with the irony. In mid, 51 percent of American Republicans viewed Putin very unfavorably. Two years later, 14 percent did.

Donald Trump, who hardly seems distraught over the coarsening of American life, is in some ways a strange inductee into the cult of Putin. In , Bannon spoke via Skype at a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute, a conservative Catholic think tank. Shortly after the election, BuzzFeed published a transcript of his talk, which was erudite, nuanced, and terrifying.

Three years into his second term as prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe continues to craft bold plans for his country's future. At the forefront is a desire to bring the excitement and innovation of Silicon Valley to Japan to jump-start the country's fading tech sector. On the same visit to the US in April, Abe also became the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint session of US Congress , which he used to push forward talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that would bring together nations including Australia, the US, Japan, Mexico, and Vietnam. It hasn't been an easy 12 months for French President Francois Hollande.

He's dealt with multiple terrorist attacks in Paris , stepped up France's role in the fight against ISIS , and instituted reforms to the country's social policy , like extending the retirement age for private-sector workers.

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Though he's slowly making progress in his attempts to lift both French morale and favor among his constituents, Hollande has a long way to go. But he still commands the fifth-richest nation on the continent and one of the most influential members of the EU, giving him immense power regardless of approval ratings. Cameron is committed to gaining concessions from the nation bloc, including looser rules on welfare for immigrants an regulation of businesses , but many Britons are skeptical that the prime minister can secure a better deal.

He's promised an "in or out" referendum for the country, but Cameron believes remaining in the EU is in his country's best interest and has been visiting EU leaders to sell them on his proposal.

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Cameron met with Queen Elizabeth after the election to talk about his plan for the next five years, which, in addition to renegotiating his country's terms with the EU, includes a controversial plan to crack down on immigration. The leader of the Catholic faith, which has more than 1 billion followers worldwide, has staked more outspoken, progressive views on public issues than popes before him. At an address to the US Congress in September, Pope Francis called on lawmakers to empathize with immigrants and refugees and to welcome them into their country.

To the delight of liberal Catholics, he urged more action to stop the effects of climate change and endorsed a more forgiving stance on divorce and homosexuality. Many American Catholics predict that within the next 35 years the church will approve of contraception, married priests, and recognition of same-sex marriages, according to a recent Pew survey. Now in his second year as prime minister of India, Narendra Modi is introducing initiatives to improve the lives of the 1.

As Putin falters, possible next leader of Russia in Brussels this week

In May, he announced plans to reform and modernize the government and business sectors by implementing a uniform sales tax and boosting foreign direct investment to India. Modi, the second-most-followed political leader on Twitter behind Barack Obama, is also pushing India to integrate with the digital world.

He believes tech innovation holds the key to lifting India out of poverty, and he traveled to Silicon Valley in September seeking advice and help from tech executives at companies like Google and Facebook. With 10 years and three terms in office under her belt, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a strong and indispensable leader in Europe. She has faced a host of challenges throughout her tenure and come out on top: She helped hold the eurozone together during the financial collapse and global recession; she has stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his aggression toward Ukraine, and, currently, she's managing Europe's refugee crisis.

At her hand, Germany stands above the rest of Europe with a strong economy and low unemployment rate. Though she's not universally liked , Merkel has proved a stabilizing force amid turmoil. Approval ratings for Vladimir Putin, Russia's president and former prime minister, reached an all-time high in October: After seizing Crimea last year in the wake of the Ukrainian Revolution, Putin is determined to resurrect Russia as a superpower.

In the past year, he's supported a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine and launched a military operation in support of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Unlike with most Western heads of state, Putin's control over Russia is subject to few constitutional checks and balances.

At the annual UN meeting in late September, Putin criticized Obama, asserting that US interventions have backfired in the Middle East, creating a haven for extremists and terrorists. Shortly after, Putin launched the Russian air campaign to target Islamic forces in Syria and weaken rebellion against the country's president.

Xi Jinping, the general secretary of China's Communist Party, has been labeled by many the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. Considering the domestic grip he's secured in just three years since becoming president of the world's largest country — nearly 1. Xi holds at least 10 titles governing the world superpower some of which he created , overseeing everything from the military and the internet to the economy. Still, China's growth in recent years puts it in elite company, and by one measure its economy even eclipses that of the US, according to the IMF.

Xi has fulfilled a vow to wage an extensive and controversial anticorruption campaign within the country. He has investigated hundreds of thousands of people and locked away some high-ranking party officials for life — his former political enemies among them. President Barack Obama presides over the world's most influential country, giving him unparalleled responsibility and power.

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He's caretaker of the largest economy, and he's helped nurse it back to health since the financial crisis. His legacy-making overhaul of the healthcare system has helped trim the uninsured rate by one-third, and it has now survived multiple Supreme Court challenges. Obama's international track record is mixed. Relations with longtime ally Israel have grown icy.

Yet his sway in foreign affairs is still strong, as evidenced by his historic move to warm ties with Cuba and the momentous nuclear deal he brokered with Iran. He may have just a year left in office, but Obama isn't sitting idle: In November he flexed his power again, killing off the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal once and for all, arguing it would have harmed the environment without improving US energy security.

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