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In a very weird and sort of disturbing way, Vladimir Putin has earned the Internet's adulation as the ultimate statesman/badass, and all the press shots of him riding shirtless on horseback certainly make him seem like the modern, Russian incarnation of Teddy Roosevelt.

AFP / Getty

Look at that thick-armed, barrel-chested hunk of man. Sure, he lacks the abs of a Tatum, but they're pretty damn good for a career politician who could redeem a senior citizen discount at the Sizzler. But hey, were any other pictures taken that day? If so, I'm sure none of them make Putin look like everybody's drunken Uncle Man Tit that one Fourth of July at Lake Hangover-Shades.

AFP / Getty
At least Putin's pants are on.

The real Vladimir Putin isn't a mix of the best parts of He-Man and Skeletor. Hell ...

5
He Can't Even Kill His Own Tigers ...

You've probably also seen this picture somewhere in your Facebook feed:

Barcroft Media / Getty
Where the hell are our pictures of Obama cuddling with grizzly bears?

The Russian government's story doesn't invite comparison to Teddy Roosevelt so much as it drunkenly demands that comparison via megaphone. Putin was visiting a nature reserve to see some scientists studying the Amur tiger (because if you ran a country, you'd take every opportunity to hang out with tigers, too). Somehow, a surprise tiger (they're ALL surprise tigers) found its way to some delicious photographers and pounced. The men survived only because Vladimir Putin had the foresight to be lurking nearby with a rifle.

Putin tranquilized the shit out of that tiger bastard and saved the day. Yes, it does sound a little like the kind of claim someone nicknamed Lying Joe Bullshitowitz would drunkenly make at a bar, but this was a major PR event for a nation whose name doesn't rhyme with "Borth Florea." Surely it couldn't be some sort of tragic, nightmarish fake?

AFP / Stringer / Getty
It's much more believable that the leader of a world power gets to wander alone through the jungle.

Of course, tragic nightmarish things are Vladdy Poo's bread and borscht: The whole encounter was a setup. Putin had a zoo tiger kidnapped, tranquilized, and snared so he could take pictures of it. Being the sort of wussketeer who'd fake saving a life, Putin apparently lacked the hammer and sickle to face a tiger with less than three times the recommended dose of tranquilizers. And then the tiger died, because we live in a terribly sad world.

Since I didn't end on a joke, feel free to imagine Putin with a fleshy hammer and sickle dangling from his taint. I think you'll agree it was time well spent.

AFP / Stringer / Getty
As was this graffiti.

4
... Or Prop Up His Own Puppet Governments

The least a dictator should be able to do is prop up a few friendly despots in smaller neighboring countries. Hitler had Franco and Mussolini, Stalin had a whole bunch of guys, and for a little while Putin had a fellow named Yanukovych. Viktor Yanukovych was your standard issue tin-pot dictator, right down to bankrupting his country via a giant expensive palace:

Jeff J. Mitchell / Staff / Getty

Reuters / Konstantin Chernichkin

In case you're wondering, that second picture is Yanukovych's private boat-restaurant, which sailed him around his private lake for dinner whenevs. So maybe it shouldn't be super surprising that the Ukrainian economy spent most of 2013 with the fiscal equivalent of whiskey dick. Putin offered Yanukovych a $15 billion bribe to stabilize the economy (read: buy more boatstaurants). His only demand was for Ukraine's president to veto a pesky little trade treaty that would've moved his country one step closer to joining the EU.

Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP / Getty
And Putin shed a single tear.

See, Russia has a longstanding fear of making skin-to-skin contact with Western Europe. It's been a big concern since well before Hitler invaded the pants off of them, although that didn't exactly help matters. It's not hard to see why Putin would want to turn Ukraine into a glorified wall between Russia and the rest of the world. The Ukrainian people weren't real big fans of this idea, because few nations aspire to speed bump-hood.

Yanukovych responded in fluent Dictatorese with riot police as his participles and torture as his gerunds. All this violence inexplicably bred more violence, and the situation quickly spiraled from "protest movement" into "heavy metal album cover":


Everybody's on drums.

Putin advised "violent repression" and offered his pet president $2 billion to get rid of those pesky rebels once and for all. Yanukovych sent in his legions of storm troopers ...

... and wound up deposed for his troubles. Even in the real world, evil empires are never more than a few plucky upstarts away from explosive disaster.


X-Wings are expensive; Molotov cocktails cost about $6.

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3
Real Dictators Don't Hide Their Invasions

It's hard not to draw comparisons between Russia's annexation of Crimea and Hitler's annexation of Austria. Here's a key difference: The Nazis marched their asses into Austria wearing German uniforms. Putin has sent more than 10,000 troops into Crimea so far, all the while claiming them to be "spontaneous" volunteers who just happen to be wearing Russian army uniforms with blacked-out insignia.

AFP / Stringer / Getty
Just being Russians and soldiers doesn't make them Russian soldiers, does it?

I do my best not to encourage dictatoring, but it seems like all the fun of having a big swingin' army dick would be kind of undercut by pretending they aren't your army at all. No one should get badass points for the realpolitik equivalent of punching somebody's shoulder and then pointing and shouting, "LOOK OVER THERE!"

Now, in all fairness, pretending not to invade a country when you're really doing exactly that is the kind of thing a proper Bond villain could make look awesome, but Putin couldn't even be arsed to pull it off with some style. Rather than Hans Grubering up some fake terrorist group, he had his men put black tape on their insignia and suggested that they probably "acquired the uniforms from army surplus stores." It's like Red Dawn, if all the invading ... uh, Cubans had claimed to be Colorado Highway Patrol officers.

AFP / Getty
"For Mother R- uh, this country. Whichever one we're in now."

2
Even Hitler Pulled Off an Olympics

If you're a dictator with near-absolute control over your country, it shouldn't be TOO hard to throw a decent Olympics: Pour a bunch of money into the project and shoot anyone who threatens to make a scene. It's the easiest thing in the world. I hate to keep going back to the Nazi well, but if the hobnailed boots fit ...

Anyway, the 1936 Olympics were a high-water mark both for Hitler's prestige and for whoever cast all the extras in German Hollywood. The Nazis put on a dazzling show that enraptured the world and netted all the footage they needed to shoot The Triumph of the Will, a propaganda film with a cast in the hundreds of thousands:


The craft services table was Lichtenstein.

Putin had already been Supreme High Over-Czar of Russia (or whatever they have now) for 14 years when the Olympics rolled around. This made them a matter of pride, and Putin responded with his favorite tactic: spending other people's money. He spent at least 45 billion tax dollars on his games, cutting Russia's economic growth by a third and making "Putin's Games" significantly more expensive than just giving every Russian citizen their own gold medal.

He earned a city full of broken hotels and stray dogs for his trouble.

Joe Scarnici / Stringer / Getty

Sochi Fails
Tens of billions of dollars well spent.

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1
His Will Is as Iron as Chalk

OK, so maybe Putin isn't some badass tiger-shooting warlord. At least he's the kind of leader who stands the ever-loving shit on his ground, unlike our pussy-ass president, who barely ever invades sovereign nations with no provocation.


It's been, like, a decade since any president did that.

Putin doesn't give an inch, and you have to respect him for that. Well, unless you're Chechnyan rebel leader Akhmad Kadyrov. Then Putin gives you a shitload of money in exchange for not fighting his soldiers anymore. American presidents in movies won't negotiate with terrorists, but Vladimir Putin is all about that shit. Alas, more than $100 billion in promised aid wasn't enough to buy Putin much of anything: Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004. Apparently paying off one angry guy doesn't make his still-poor friends any less angry.

You can slap together as many macros as you want, but it won't change the fact that Vladimir Putin has exactly two strategies for dealing with adversity: throwing money at it, and throwing the Russian army at it. Yes, "the Russian army" sounds terrifying -- if you're anything like me*, you read those words in the voice of Patrick Swayze's character from Red Dawn, and you briefly hallucinated newsreel footage of the Red Army's endless columns of tanks and infantry.

Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty
*If you are anything like me, that happens on a regular basis no matter what you do.

Well the Russian army still has those big columns of men and tanks, and that's sort of exactly the damn problem. Putin's military is built around fighting the kind of war we fought in 1945, and billions of dollars in reform haven't fixed that yet. Russia still drafts, because she "cannot afford to create a fully professional army." That quote comes from Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, not some foreign journalists, although those journalists did talk to a soldier in one of Russia's few elite "professional" soldiering units, who reported an astonishing two shooting drills per year.

Putin has a scary-looking face and billions of dollars in PR to make him look the part of a proper Bond villain. But remember: fucking Hollywood invented Bond villains. So you should take this:

Dmitry Astakhov / AFP / Getty

Exactly as seriously as you took this:

Because they're both the same fucking man.

Robert Evans isn't a fan of Vladimir Putin. But if you're a fan of him, he can be reached here.

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