God it must be fun being Nourieil Roubini. Once dismissed as a bit of a crackpot by the Davos elite, Dr Doom is now the star of the show – billed as “the man who got it right”. At dinners, seminars and parties, everybody now wants to hear from the great Roubini. What is going to happen next? Nothing very good, apparently - he thinks the US banking system is basically insolvent, and the same goes for Europe.
The great thing about being Roubini is that not only is he now widely hailed as cleverer than everybody else – he is also able to imply that he is morally superior and more courageous as well. Part of the current Roubini patter is that many other analysts got it wrong because their judgement was clouded by conflicts of interest. Others, he thinks, lacked the intellectual courage to consistently stand out from the crowd. This makes him sound like an arrogant sod. Maybe so – but he is also appealingly dishevelled and quite funny.
Those are not words I would apply to Vladimir Putin. I went to an off-the-record thing with him yesterday so – apologies – I cannot reveal the not-very-startling things he said. But watching him at close quarters is rather fascinating. He is small, extremely fit-looking, with piercing blue eyes and a nice line in mirthless laughter. As a colleague put it to me later, “I wouldn’t want to be in a room with just him and a bare light-bulb.”
Putin, however, has been upstaged by the great Erdogan walk-out. The Turkish PM’s tantrum in his shared session with Shimon Peres is now the story of this year’s Davos. My personal sympathies are with the moderator, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who is now being conveniently vilified by all and sundry for not keeping the panel under control. Still, at least he’ll get a column out of it.
This moderation thing is a bit tricky. On the one hand, it is obviously an honour and it is gratifying to be on stage – rather than sitting in the audience. On the other hand, it involves irritating things, like preparation. And – as Ignatius just discovered – it can all go wrong.
I am going to get my turn at moderation this afternoon – when I am doing a panel on Nato. One of the stars was meant to be Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister, but he has been forced to stalk out of Davos in a pretend huff, in the wake of his prime minister. A shame, but given the Turks’ current mood, it might make the session a bit easier to control.
Gideon Rachman is the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist