As you may recall, I dislike Vladimir Putin. I find him to be a slimy autocrat of less-than-stellar ethics (remember, I live not far from the White House, so I'm getting good on identifying leaders with ethical lapses.) Putin and his lackeys are hungry little wolves, and they are eating their opponents into oblivion. Putin is poised to become "leader for life" if the Russian people don't wake the hell up. Right now, the Russian Duma is considering amending the nation's constitution specifically to allow Putin a third term in office. They're simply calling it "the Putin Amendment."
Don't do it, Mutha Russia! Just say nyet. Develop a spine. It's time. Uzhe para, druz'ya!!
One of my favorite Putin moments came just days ago, when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited the Kremlin. Kraft showed Putin his $15,000+ diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring - a ring he himself had possession of for only two weeks at this point. Putin took the ring, tried it on, pocketed it, and then quickly departed. WTF? Kraft at first appeared shocked and commented that the Russian president was "clearly taken with (the ring's) uniqueness..." But he sure as hell hadn't planned on being pickpocketed by a world leader. Later, in an extremely diplomatic move (and the smart move of a businessman with paper/timber interests) Kraft said he meant the ring as a gift for Putin.
But I think that's a massive pile of horse hockey. Putin liked the diamond-studded ring, and who the hell is going to ask for something back when the president of the country you're visiting - in the hopes of more business - swipes your property in front of the press. What an ass.
You see, Russian culture has a very, very formal tradition with gifts & personal property. And Putin just ignored the rules when he saw a bauble he liked. Russian tradition goes as follows:
You like someone's ring. You say, "Wow, ain't that something! Your ring is gorgeous!"
The ring owner says, "Oh, you really like it? Here - take it, it's yours!"
You say, "Oh, no no no! I couldn't possibly do that!"
The ring owner replies, "No, seriously! You must have it! Please!"
Again, you say, "Oh, goodness, really, no! But thank you anyway!"
One more time, the ring owner urges, "But, of course, you must have it! It's my pleasure."
And, one final time, you answer, "No, no. Thanks. It's lovely, and it looks great on you!"
And so, the ring owner returns the ring to his own hand.
You see something you like. You compliment it. It must be offered and refused three times. If the owner of the item is still foisting it upon you after your third refusal, it's open season. Just take the damn thing to stop the whole back and forth stuff.
That's how it would have gone with any cultured, decent Russian. A decent soul in Mutha Russia wouldn't dream of stealing someone's $15K ring the way Putin. A smug uncultured wolf with steely eyes, a huge ego, and a terrifying taste for personal power would, though.
Kak vam stidno, Prezident Putin. Kak vam stidno. Shame on you.