Magazine article The American Conservative

Putin & His Enemies

Magazine article The American Conservative

Putin & His Enemies

Article excerpt

A Russian man stripped down to the waist last month for the cameras, and his muscled torso made headlines around the world. Mind you, it was the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, but few could have predicted the explosion of gossip and speculation that followed the publication of the pictures, taken while Vlad holidayed with Prince Albert of Monaco in the Siberian mountains.

Did it mean Russia was ready to strip herself of her nukes? Duh, no. Russian gay chatrooms and blogs claimed he was pleading for more tolerance for homosexuality in Russia. Not quite. Putin is a black belt in judo and a good skier, hence the macho torso, but as far as anything else is concerned, all the striptease signified was that the president was hot and had taken off his shirt.

Political commentators don't know what to make of Vladimir. He has been using "pipeline diplomacy" to force neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine to toe the Russian line. He has also intimidated Estonia and Latvia, not to mention Western Europe-as easy to intimidate as a Kuwaiti sheik without Uncle Sam in his corner. Needless to say, the ones screaming the loudest are Western oil companies. These poor dears, basket cases such as BP and Exxon, are being put over the barrel, a position these bullies have been holding John Q. Public in for a very long time. Like all bullies, they are not best pleased when the positions are reversed.

Personally, I'm delighted. The late, great President Nixon once told me that the West was acting unfairly toward the Russian Bear. Instead of helping a prostrate Russia, we cheered while the Russkies suffered defeat and humiliation. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and Russia is bent upon the recovery of her assets, her authority, and her capacity to intimidate.

Instead of whining, Uncle Sam should put himself in Putin's place. Most of the Russian people love what he's doing. His is the kind of government they understand, top-down policies from the Kremlin have been around for a thousand years. They strike a chord with every taxi driver who still keeps a miniature of Joseph Stalin beside his windscreen.

The indisputable fact is that Russians feel provoked by American plans to deploy part of its new anti-missile system in Eastern Europe. They rejoice in Washington's disaster in Iraq. …

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