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Forbes began its analysis with the question "who's more powerful: the autocratic leader of a former superpower or the handcuffed commander in chief of the most dominant country in the world?"
The magazine went with Putin, who finished second in last year's poll behind Obama.
"Putin has solidified his control over Russia while Obama's lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess. Anyone watching this year's chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics."
It's only the second time in his presidency that Obama has not topped the Forbes power poll.
Obama finished second in 2010 to China's then-president Hu Jintao. The current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, finished third in the latest survey.
A newcomer — Pope Francis — finished fourth.
In fifth place: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an outspoken critic of National Security Council surveillance policies in other countries.