So, today, just to be different, I’m going to write about something other than American politics. Specifically, I’m going to write about Putin, Russia’s toxic president…
Quite literally toxic…judging from the number of bodies around him.
Now, it sort of got lost in all the noise about Trump…his taxes, his bullying thuggishness at the first debate, his subsequent contraction of Covid, his taxes, his refusal to participate in the second debate under the current rules…and on, and on, and on!
But, way back in September, Putin called for a sort of moratorium on nations meddling in each other’s politics—in other words, no more using the Web to sow disruption and hate.(1) His call was, perhaps, rendered less effective by the subsequent discovery that Russia is, as before, engaging in massive interference in U.S. politics…but, what the heck?(2)
Still, I remember thinking when I read that even if it were true, even if Vladdy Boy is serious about it…well, too little, too late. It’s like bombing Pearl Harbor and then afterwards saying, Gee, no hard feelings and let’s be palsy-walsy and BFFs from now on.
It just isn’t happening.
Indeed, I wonder if the West will ever forgive Putin…that is, once Trump is out of office. There are too many men and women here who recall quite clearly that it was Putin and his troll farms which went far to put 45 into office…
And plunged us into something like hell.
I wonder, further, what they shall do about that…and about him…the man who caused all our problems.
In other words…
Say, Vlad, do you know what Polonium-210 tastes like?
There’s a chance you’ll find out.
Polonium is, of course, one of the potions that Putin’s familiars have used to silence his critics. Lately, it seems, they’ve moved on to other things, like nerve gas—specifically Novichok, a chemical weapon that is said to be among the most deadly ever made. (3)
Putin has employed Novichok several times recently, both in Russia and elsewhere. It was the substance that was used in Britain on former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skiripal in 2018. It nearly killed them both, but, fortunately, the British doctors were able to save them.
Novichok was also the weapon used on Alexei Navalny, one of Putin’s most articulate critics. I have followed Navalnyi for some years, mostly via his Youtube channel. (4) No, I don’t speak Russian, but sometimes you can find English translations, and, even if you can’t, you can sort of get an idea of what’s going on just by looking at the pictures.
And, Navalny has been fearless and tireless in his mockery of Putin. So, I suppose, it was a surprise to no one when that good man fell mysteriously ill. Specifically, he had a cup of tea before boarding a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. In the middle of the flight, he became horribly ill. He was, in fact, in agony.
The plane then made an emergency landing in the Russian city of Omsk. I am guessing that the landing was a surprise to Putin and his people. I’m guessing they expected the plane to keep going all the way to Moscow, and/or that Navalny would die en route.
Something else that I don’t think they expected was that Navalny’s wife and personal doctor would get to Omsk fairly quickly, and that they had already arranged for him to be flown to the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, one of Europe’s premier teaching and research hospitals. The doctors at Charité had, I assume, known what to expect after the Skripal poisonings.
Long story short, Navalny pulled through. He’s now up and about and is as feisty as ever — though, last I checked, broadcasting from Berlin rather than Moscow.
Because Navalny is one tough m0therfvcker, I’m guessing he won’t give up saying nasty things about Trump’s second favorite dictator (after North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, though it might be sort of a toss-up).
But I do wonder about something. Poisoning is standard operating procedure for Putin’s Russia—that much we know. But, Putin’s love of the toxic and the poisonous sets an interesting precedent.
Several of his minions must be wondering which of them will anger the Boss next, and then get a little Novichok as a breath freshener. Which leads to the question of whether one or more of them might act a little preemptively. After all, nerve gas can be sprayed both ways.
And even if that weren’t the case, it pays to recall that Alexei Navalny is 44 years old. Putin is 67.
We can only hope that poison or no poison, in the end it is Mr. Navalny who gets the final chortle.
Go, Alexei, go!
One last thing…even if you discount the poison aspect of things.
On that business of Putin getting a little long in the tooth…and this is a characteristic he shares with our own would-be, but far less successful despot, the Orange Man in the White House.
Putin bases an enormous amount of his personal legitimacy and professional persona on being a tough guy. To prove his toughness, he’s done some things that seem merely ridiculous to rational people, but which appear to work for his base. There were, for example, the famous pictures of him on a horse while bare chested. Similarly, he rides with a motorcycle club/gang, the Nightwolves, who are sort of like the Hell’s Angels here. When he goes on midnight jaunts with the other cyclists, the media is always there to snap pictures.
But, there’s the thing. You can be a tough guy and be old. Toughness is as much a matter or personality as it is the body.
Yet, being a physical tough guy ...a swaggering bully who can beat up anyone in the house...is a young man’s game. No matter how strong and brave you are, eventually the muscles and sinews begin to show wear and tear.
Thus, on those midnight jaunts with the Nightwolves, Putin does not technically ride a motorcycle. He rides a three wheeler, that is, a powered tricycle. I’m guessing that’s because he would fall off a two-wheeled bike, and that would be quite embarrassing.
So the question is, how long can he play this game? How long before the crowds begin to see his increasing age and weaknesses? Or, maybe more importantly, how long before his subordinates, who obey him partly from greed and partly from fear, also begin to wonder if he is quite what he used to be?
And after that…
Onward and upward.
Until next time,
For Further Reading
“The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad,” Amanda Erickson, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/03/06/the-long-terrifying-history-of-russian-dissidents-being-poisoned-abroad/).
“From Russia With Blood,” by Heidi Blake, Tom Warren, Richard Holmes, Jason Leopold, Jane Bradley, Alex Campbell, Buzzfeed News, https://www.buzzfeed.com/heidiblake/from-russia-with-blood-14-suspected-hits-on-british-soil