Vladimir Putin is what happens when James Bond gets one of his villains pregnant and the child grows up to kick both their asses. An ex-secret agent now in charge of the entire Eastern Bloc, he's the good and bad guys combined so that the morality cancels out and you're left with the best part of a Hollywood movie: pure, unadulterated ass kicking.
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He presided over a sextupling of Russia's GDP, the doubling of average national wages, signed bills mandating increased wages for teachers and nurses, and his approval rating is so constantly, ridiculously high, he's the only world leader reviewed by IGN. Either he is ruthlessly exploiting the media or he is a real-life action hero of such colossal scope that any movie starring him would seem absurd.
When wildfires ravaged the Ryazan region of Russia last year, Putin didn't appear in front of a camera to assure residents that everything possible was being done, he appeared in the front of a Beriev BE-200 amphibious aircraft to do it himself. Initially a passenger on the fire-fighting flight, the Prime Minister took this natural disaster's attack on his homeland personally and seized the copilot's seat. He then throttle-aimed the plane at the fire and personally beat a wildfire into submission.
Via The Kremlin
Using Air and Water to fight Fire -- he just kicked 60 percent of Captain Planet's ass.
What would be a memorable event in anyone's life, flying a plane filled with water was just another day for Putin. He's had more kickass vehicles under his command than Optimus Prime; he flew a Tu-160 supersonic heavy bomber in an air show, and a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 over Chechnya in 2000. For anyone lacking the historical context, Chechnya in 2000 was one of the worst places to hang out in a fighter jet, and an even worse place to do so as the Russian President.
And he still found it boring
He also celebrated a deal bringing F1 to Russia by driving one around at 150mph and nearly crashing it. After personnel told him how fast he was going, he responded with, "For the first time, it's good." It's good. For him 150 mph and nearly crashing a personalized F1 trial isn't fantasy; it's barely acceptable. He also upstaged President Barack Obama's 2009 visit to Moscow by cruising into town with bikers called the "Night Wolves," presumably just to mess up traffic for the American President and maybe to see what it was like to chain whip someone with a gang.
In 2008 Putin visited Ussuri national park with a camera crew to see a trapped tiger when the adjective "trapped" suddenly, and pants-shittingly, no longer applied. Faced with the now-loose predator, Putin scooped up a tranquilizer pistol, dropped the tiger and then, because just downing a people-eating jungle cat didn't shake him up, he helped measure its teeth.
Sleep well, worthy foe.
The story is so fantastic it doesn't matter whether it's true or not. If it's true it's better than our politicians, who are decidedly less accurate with guns.
And if it's a lie then it's still a better story than any of our politicians can muster, and certainly more comforting. Realizing you're in the capable hands of a man who defeats tigers in his spare time is reassuring. Hell, it's practically an honor to have your country dominated by a man like that. He also fired crossbow bolts at a whale as part of an eco-tracking effort, proving that even when he's helping nature it involves at least medieval era weaponry. To give the whale a sporting chance he did so from a small rubber dinghy.
Captain Ahab used an entire ship. The pansy.
He's also tagged and weighed a Polar bear, proving that he's going to save the world if he has to defeat every single thing in it. He helped lift the tranquilized bear onto scales before shaking its paw, both to show respect as one unbelievable badass to another, and to get a measure of the bear's physical strength should Russia ever need them as allies.
If only he was alive at the same time as Theodore Roosevelt they'd have sorted out the whole stupid Cold War mano-a-mano, and it would only have cost the world one forest of felled trees.
On an official trade visit to Japan in 2003 Vladimir took time out from negotiations to spiritually kick the entire country's ass with Judo. In front of the Japanese Prime Minister in the Kodokan judo headquarters of Japan, Putin demonstrated his willingness to take on any nation at its own sport. He suited up and showed everyone his version of various sweeps and throws on the center Kodokan instructor in a sparring match. In fact, he's the only world leader with a special move (Haraigoshi). While Qaddafi has to pay foreigners to fight his own people, you get the impression that if the Russian public ever rebelled Putin would roll up his sleeves and give the army the day off.
Putin simultaneously opens trade relations and his opponent's kidneys.
He actually wrote the book on Russian Judo, which you can buy right now called Judo:History, Theory and Practice. Though, in Russia it's called Judo with Putin.
And just like the best characters in Street Fighter, he's said to have crazy glowing energy, long-distance attacks too; when Russian ex-spy, Alexander Litvenko died of radiation poisoning in London, some diplomats insisted that Vladimir likely knew about the assassination plot. He was, after all, the ex-head of Russian secret service and then President of the Russian Federation. While we don't have any proof, we're nearly certain that upon learning of Litvenko's death, Putin had some pithy action movie line like, "You can't expect to just leave the KGB without some ... fallout."
Via The Kremlin
We're pretty sure James Bond just shat himself.
Very few world leaders look good. Silvio Berlusconi had to sell his entire country to get women to stand near him, Kim John Il and son look like someone overinflated a pair of bleached footballs, and David Cameron looks like he at least encounters women provided they're shopping for competitive insurance rates. Vladimir Putin operates on a different level, and that level is the top shelf magazines with the foil wrapping.
Because women have votes too.
You look like a great catch.
But combining ass-kicking for straight men and considerate flexing for straight women still leaves 10% of the population, and that's 10% more approval rating than Putin's prepared to miss. So in addition to the fistful of heterosexual photos of him shirtless or dominating wild-animals, Putin also offers a compass for any Russian's who are confused about where they stand or are otherwise directionless.
Via The Kremlin
Who could be confused under the comforting warmth of that piercing gaze?
Putin also knows there's more to a man than a toned, musk scented exterior. He flexes his sensitive side frequently as well. In December of 2010, he played piano to raise money for a charity that supports children suffering from eye diseases and cancer, presumably because he felt sorry for the kids who would never be able to see his unadulterated masculinity with their own eyes. He even sang a duet with an adorable little girl in front of the cameras of the world.
Who cares if he's Russian, at this point the Statue of Liberty would have dropped her torch if he proposed.
"But these are all PR stunts," you may say, "just because he insists people should love him doesn't mean they do." But you're wrong. Where American bureaucrats risk political suicide if they so much as breathe on an intern, Putin graciously and publicly accepts naked pictures of college co-eds. Not just one girl from a university, but all the girls at that university, with female Moscow State University students sending him an erotic calendar of themselves for his 58th birthday earlier this year; Russian women literally professionally print and bind themselves for delivery to his house.
Vladimir is sure your birthday cards are very nice too, of course
He got twelve for his birthday - that's a dozen times better than JFK. He described the girls as "courageous" in an interview with Naomi Campbell, implying that even withstanding his magnetism was dangerous work and therefore honorable.