Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation, has been named by Aviation Week as their Person of the Year.
In 2014, no other person has had such a sweeping impact on aerospace and aviation—for better or worse. And for all but the most cynical of observers, Putin’s far-reaching impact has definitely been for the worse. Because of this, he is the 2014 Person of the Year.
President Putin, a former KGB agent, has certainly been making waves for the international community. Last year, the West witnessed unsettling military actions as Putin led the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine touched civil aviation when a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down. Though Russian media sources have tried to blame the crash on Ukrainian fighter pilots, exactly how the flight was downed remains a mystery. But many suspect it was actually hit by a missile fired from Russian-supported separatists.
These moves, “undeniably altered the geopolitical landscape.” As a result, NATO has responded to Russia’s military actions by asking that its members spend 20% of their budgets on updating technology.
Provocative Russian military flights, which are prodding NATO airspace and U.S. shores, have led to heightened tensions in the skies. NATO’s Baltic Air Policing operation has been considerably strengthened since the start of the Ukrainian crisis. As President Putin’s forces are gathering on Russian borders, missions like the BAP serve, “to allay fears,” of Baltic states like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. This kind of flight pattern and activity has not been seen since the days of the Cold War.
Russia’s behavior has also prompted many in the US to reconsider their stance towards cooperation in outer space. Relations between NASA and Roscosmos are deteriorating and this raises many questions about the future of programs like the International Space Station. In addition, many in Washington are pushing to end a reliance on Russian space hardware like the RD-180 rocket engine, which currently powers the Atlas V rocket and is used to launch U.S. military satellites.
As President Putin leads his country into a new year, cheap oil is hurting Russia’s already suffering economy. Given all this, 2015 looks to be a tough year for Vladimir Putin.