Newspaper article International New York Times

Moscow's Macho Man Loosens Tongues

Newspaper article International New York Times

Moscow's Macho Man Loosens Tongues

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's vow to confront the Russian president is just one in a long line of jabs by international leaders.

Could it be his charm or talent? Or the exaggeratedly macho image?

Whatever it is, there is something about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that seems to get under the skin of other world leaders, prompting them to say things they typically do not say about other important figures -- at least not aloud or in public.

On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia became the latest in a long line when he told reporters that he planned to confront the Russian leader at a meeting in Brisbane next month of the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging nations.

"I'm going to shirt-front Mr. Putin," Mr. Abbott said, speaking of his response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, in which 28 Australians were killed. He used a term that in Australian football means charging an opponent to knock him down and that in rugby refers to grabbing an opponent's shirt or collar. "I am going to be saying to Mr. Putin: 'Australians were murdered. They were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian- supplied equipment. We are very unhappy about this."'

Mr. Abbott eased back a bit on Tuesday after criticism in the Australian news media and from a Tasmanian senator, Jacqui Lambie, who accused him of being "just full of testosterone and bad manners." A Russian Embassy official called Mr. Abbott's remarks "immature."

When it comes to dealing with Mr. Putin, of course, a little testosterone would hardly seem to hurt. The Russian leader, who has a black belt in judo, is well known for his machismo, as well as for showing it off. Photographs of him bare-chested, including one while he is riding a horse and another while fishing, are among his iconic images. There are other photographs of him engaged in an array of physical endeavors -- scuba diving, for example, and flying a motorized hang glider. …

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