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A Bare-Chested Machiavelli



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It is unfortunate that Vladimir Putin could not use his formidable diplomatic skills at home to address his own near failing state rather than showcasing them abroad at our expense. Oh, well . . .

Without much effort, his Alice-in-Wonderland proposal of collecting WMD from Assad, in the midst of a civil war no less (does this mean a mandatory 24-hour time-out so that U.N. inspectors can rush in with clipboards and audit the ten warring sides?), all at once seems to have kept his Mediterranean coastal client Bashar Assad not just alive, but with the upper hand in the war just by — in theory, though unlikely in fact — eliminating 1 percent of the combined killing capacity so far demonstrated in the fighting. 

Putin, the leveler of Grozny, and absolutely callous to the first 99,000 killed in Syria, has advertised to the world his humanitarian empathy in preventing an American-led, new escalation of the war, supposedly to be waged over the last 1,000 dead.

He has reminded the “international community” and U.S. allies why they were absolutely baffled over the administration’s hazy aims, contradictory means, and uncertain desired ends, and in effect also reminded them why they were wise not to sign on to such a directionless and capricious agenda. 

He has made a floundering Barack Obama grasp onto a supposed life line, reduced the rhetorician John Kerry to a caricature of John Kerry, and now has almost controlled the entire pulse of the ill-thought-out and poorly planned U.S. preemption — which is being reduced to something like “at least we inspired Putin’s ridiculous idea in the first place and only our threats produced such an unhinged Russian response.” How strange that Putin is supposedly enhancing the Obama administration’s weird notion that it is not who controls and uses WMD that matters, but the mere existence of WMD itself that almost spontaneously kills people.

This charade will last as long as Obama is intent on bombing to recover his own lost credibility over his unfortunate red lines, and as long as Putin can keeping producing a new phantasm as quickly as the prior one disappears. No doubt his well-timed efforts have altered the contents of tonight’s presidential address, and later this week he will do something again to alter the alterations of the presidential address.

One would have thought Putin wielded the huge military, enjoyed the cachet of being a Nobel laureate, was surrounded by just-war theorists, and led the world’s largest democracy and economy.


Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin has cast a long shadow over international affairs in recent months, first at the Sochi Olympic Games and now with his aggressive moves against Ukraine. Here’s a look at some recent social-media missives on Putin and his dealings with president Barack Obama.
Putin's behavior at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games came in for some razzing.
President Obama's response to Putin's incursion into Crimea seemed feckless and weak to some observers, and fed the feeling that he was no match for Russian strongman Putin.
THE ODD COUPLE The showdown over Ukraine is only the latest chapter in the chilly relationship between Presidents Obama and Putin, a relationship Obama’s much-vaunted “reset” has done little to thaw.
The strained relations between the two leaders has been a bit of a throwback to Cold War rivalries. And given the outsized personalities involved, it has been fodder for caricature from the Photoshop commentariat.
THE NEW RUSSIAN BEAR: Russian president Vladimir Putin is a bit of a throwback: A strongman leader who aggressively confronts the West in international affairs, making himself a thorn in the side of American foreign policy.
Unlike previous Russian leaders, Putin is also a bit of a media celebrity, with a penchant for indulging in tough-guy activities. Here’s a look at Putin the international action star in recent years, and some Internet mockery of his extreme-sports trappings.
Did Putin steal a Super Bowl ring? After New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft let Putin try on the ring back in 2005, Putin reportedly pocketed it. At the time Kraft claimed the $25,000 ring was a gift, but he recently said he wanted it back. According to the NY Post, the ring is now kept in the Kremlin library.
Horseback riding in the Tuva region of Siberia, 2009.
Hunting in Siberia, 2009.
Swimming in Siberia, 2009.
Race-car driving in Leningrad, 2010.
Skating at the “Golden Puck” youth tournament in Moscow, 2011.
Practicing judo in St. Petersburg, 2009.
Flying a firefighting plane in Ryazan, 2010.
Driving a tank in Nizhny Tagil, 2011.
Diving for treasure in Greece, 2011.
Arm-wrestling at a summer camp at Lake Seliger, 2011.
Hunting tigers in Primorsky Krai, 2008.
Target practice at GRU headquarters in Moscow, 2006.
Eyeing some prey in Kamchatka, 2010.
Striking the iron in Siberia, 2009.
Biking in Novorossiisk, 2011.
Chatting with the “Night Wolves” bikers in Novorossiysk, 2011.
Meeting a topless feminist protester in Germany in April.
Tickling the ivories in St. Petersburg, 2010.
On horseback in Khakassia, 2010.
Whispering with horses in Siberia, 2010.
Feeding a bay moose in Moscow, 2010.
Frolicking with dogs in Moscow in March, 2013.
Hugging a Bulgarian shepherd dog, a gift from Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, in Sofia, 2010.
DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN: Larger-than-life figures can’t help but attract some creative commentary. Here’s a sampling.
Updated: Mar. 03, 2014

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