We laughed at Vladimir Putin for pretending to be a Bond villain, and now we're not laughing because he's not pretending. He just realized that ballot papers work better than orbital death rays. It's much easier to make demands of a national government when you're their boss.
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" ... but I still want a giant TV monitor hanging over the United Nations. I'll use it to telecommute instead of demanding millions of dollars."
The result is a movie-style action hero: He's bold, he's manly, and he has lots of people writing on pieces of paper behind the scenes to make sure he wins everything no matter what the reality should be. He has crazier propaganda than the Legalize Unicorn Bestiality Party, and his recent activities look like Lex Luthor's to-do list.
"This kryptonite armor needs to be an inch thicker."
#7. Deploying Mini-Submarines
Putin organizes more photo opportunities than Beyonce. He's the world's most nuclear-capable male model.
RIA NOVOSTI / KREMLIN POOL / DMITRY ASTAKHOV
"Check out these guns, and my multiple warhead RSM-56 Bulavas!"
He's appeared in more awesome vehicles than G.I. Joe, and is even more childishly focused on manliness.
Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
"This is not the kind of bird I wanted to pick up with my sweet ride."
Vehicle photo shoots are high-velocity psychology tests: A motorbike means you want to look badass, a fighter jet says you think being at war with another country is awesome, and riding a horse is how you tell the world's women that you look glorious astride anything. He's done all of them and more.
"I will give anything I ride the sugar. This is both literal and figurative."
Transparent-domed mini-submarines are used only by people with nuclear warheads and work-related reasons to mention the fact. Putin commandeered one earlier this summer, allegedly to investigate a 19th century wreck, but mainly because he could.
"I really should wait until my base explodes, but this thing is just too cool."
This isn't the first time he's mini-submarined. The Russian president previously Red One-Weekend-in-October-ed to inspect "flammable ice" crystals packed with natural gas underneath the world's deepest lake. Not only can Putin be a Bond villain for real, he even found a way to make Quantum of Solace's silly water scheme exciting by finding water that can catch fire.
#6. Tank Biathlon
The Russian military's tank biathlon is exactly the same as the human version, except worth watching. The BBC has a video. Unfortunately they took it as a challenge to see how dully professional they could remain about a sport that makes Thunderdome look like shuffleboard.
Vitaly V. Kuzmin
"Here we see things that are either combusting or made to make other things start combusting. I'm William Boringly-Smythe for the BBC."
The human biathlon is based on how we used to hunt the food we need to keep moving, so it makes sense to extend it to tanks.
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"The American M1A1 tank in its natural feeding ground, the oil-rich foreign country."
The tanks are brightly colored to tell the teams apart, making it look even more like a video game that has awesomely escaped into the real world.
"I dare you to say something stupid about pink."
When a country starts showing off how much better their tanks are at quickly blowing things up, that's not relaxing for anyone on the same landmass. In the last 20 years, Russia has been engaged in four wars and claimed victory in half of them, moving up to two-thirds when you realize that the second and third were against the same "enemy," aka "country that didn't want to be part of Russia anymore." I haven't taken any business leadership classes, but killing people to keep them on your team has to be a self-limiting strategy.
"If you don't start answering my phone calls, I'll murder you again!"
Russia has also been holding massive war games on their borders with other countries, and on islands that are under international dispute with other countries. Islands that are then also under Russian soldiers practicing to solve international disputes. By shooting them.
It's nicer to think of it as a heroic attempt to make the Winter Olympics worth watching. Properly applied, this could make it so that everyone says "the Summer Olympics," instead of saying "the Olympics" (which means "the Real Olympics"). Imagine upgrading all the winter sports to kick ass: luging with main battle tanks! Curling with hand grenades! Ski jumping over attack helicopters! Ice hockey without any changes!
#5. Clinging to Power
Vladimir Putin took over from Boris Yeltin, the first man to drunk-drive an entire superpower. After eight years of their leader turning up in foreign capitals like an old college buddy with an empty bottle and no shoes, the Russians were desperate for anyone who looked professional. "Ex-KGB" is as terrifyingly professional as a CV can get.
"My greatest weakness is the pterion of the skull, where a sharp blow can cause a hematoma, as it does in all human bodies."
His electoral platform was "I think Russia is awesome and am sober." In his first terms, he did things to the Russian economy that looked like he was using a cheat code. If he'd left after that, he'd have gone down as one of the most beloved leaders in Russian history. Although there isn't much competition for that title.
"Remember how Empress Anna used to brutally freeze nobles as well as peasants? Good times."
Unfortunately, he's less likely to leave than the Urals. Treating the constitutional law against more than two consecutive presidential terms as a minor technicality, Putin and Dmitry Medvedev swapped the presidency and prime ministership back and forth like mix tapes until Putin was president again, then extended the length of the presidential term from four years to six. Medvedev vigorously denied that he was a puppet, but political observers notice that his mouth still twitches every time Putin moves his hand.
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When Putin is using both arms, Medvedev reverts to an off state.
#4. Really Politik
Russian "realpolitik" means basing your politics on practicality instead of ideas. Modern Russia elevates that to practically cutting out the idea of politics itself, especially the idea that more than one group should be allowed to take part. In 2011, Parnas, the People's Freedom Party, was denied registration just before the elections. This "freedom party" wasn't a bearded hippie representing his constituency of beard lice, but a serious opposition bloc including a former prime minister and deputy prime minister.
"Did you know beards can be infested with pubic lice? Sorry for telling you. But not as sorry as I am about the lice."
The Russian justice ministry claimed that the new party failed to meet several legal requirements, of which "supporting Vladimir Putin" was presumably the most mandatory. They also pointed out that the party's proposed charter did not provide for a rotation of leadership. They said this in 2011, when Dmitry Medvedev was busily eating rose petals so that his farts would gently scent the presidential chair before he gave it back.