Readability

The Putin interviews

Show­time car­ried Oliver Stone’s inter­views of Vladimir Putin this week. I watched parts of the Wednes­day and Thurs­day sec­tions. (I didn’t see the judo or hockey ses­sions.) Show­time sub­scribers can watch on line. No, I did not watch the Megyn Kelly interview.

The inter­views aired on the same week of anti-​corruption protest ral­lies staged in Moscow, St. Peters­burg, and other Russ­ian cities and towns.

Stone spoke Eng­lish, Putin spoke Russ­ian. An inter­preter, who at times looked like a younger Costa Ronin of The Amer­i­cans, trans­lated for Stone, who seems to be flu­ent in Russ­ian. Putin’s words were sub­ti­tled through­out even when he spoke English.

In case you won­der, Stone did not catch Putin break­ing a lit­tle girl’s bicy­cle, unlike his friend Hugo Chávez,

On the one hand, Oliver is a big fan of Chávez, the Cas­tros, and, of course, of Putin, and it shows: Rolling Stone reports that the series is set to air on Russia’s state-​run Chan­nel One in its entirety later this month,

In an appear­ance on The Late Show on Mon­day night, Stone sang the praises of Putin, to the point where a taken-​aback Stephen Col­bert asked, “Any­thing neg­a­tive that you found? Any­thing? Or does he have your dog in a cage someplace?”

On the other hand, Putin never reveals any­thing acci­den­tally or under pres­sure; never has, never will.

It was entirely pre­dictable, so why did I watch?

For starters, I wanted to see what and how much was shown. There were three of Putin’s offices, a staged sit­u­a­tion room (as in war com­mand room with live calls from the mil­i­tary — think of it as Skype calls from the jet bombers), a patio with Pottery-​Barn-​style out­door fur­ni­ture, innu­mer­able mile-​long hall­ways, and a very large, tra­di­tional ball­room with elab­o­rate carpet.

Through it all, Putin was com­pletely in charge, poised, wear­ing a busi­ness suit and neck­tie, self-​assured, and at-​ease-​while-​fully-​alert yet not quite relaxed. As Leonid Bershid­sky puts it, in his inter­views, “Putin has never once relaxed or relin­quished con­trol,” and he’s not about to start. This bears repeat­ing because it is the under­ly­ing aspect of the per­sona I was watch­ing on TV.

Bershid­sky explains that Putin has one invari­able mes­sage (empha­sis added):

The mes­sage he has for for­eign lead­ers hasn’t changed in 17 years: “Rus­sia is a sov­er­eign power with a set of his­toric inter­ests that it will pur­sue no mat­ter what; West­ern pow­ers can’t tell Rus­sia what to do.”

Putin makes it clear at every moment that he will do what is nec­es­sary to bring about what he sees as being in Russia’s best interest.

That, and that alone, is the most impor­tant take­away from the inter­views. Every­thing else is theater.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin Amer­ica at Fausta’s blog.

Showtime carried Oliver Stone’s interviews of Vladimir Putin this week. I watched parts of the Wednesday and Thursday sections. (I didn’t see the judo or hockey sessions.) Showtime subscribers can watch on line. No, I did not watch the Megyn Kelly interview.

The interviews aired on the same week of anti-corruption protest rallies staged in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities and towns.

Stone spoke English, Putin spoke Russian. An interpreter, who at times looked like a younger Costa Ronin of The Americans, translated for Stone, who seems to be fluent in Russian. Putin’s words were subtitled throughout even when he spoke English.

In case you wonder, Stone did not catch Putin breaking a little girl’s bicycle, unlike his friend Hugo Chávez,

On the one hand, Oliver is a big fan of Chávez, the Castros, and, of course, of Putin, and it shows: Rolling Stone reports that the series is set to air on Russia’s state-run Channel One in its entirety later this month,

In an appearance on The Late Show on Monday night, Stone sang the praises of Putin, to the point where a taken-aback Stephen Colbert asked, “Anything negative that you found? Anything? Or does he have your dog in a cage someplace?”

On the other hand, Putin never reveals anything accidentally or under pressure; never has, never will.

It was entirely predictable, so why did I watch?

For starters, I wanted to see what and how much was shown. There were three of Putin’s offices, a staged situation room (as in war command room with live calls from the military – think of it as Skype calls from the jet bombers), a patio with Pottery-Barn-style outdoor furniture, innumerable mile-long hallways, and a very large, traditional ballroom with elaborate carpet.

Through it all, Putin was completely in charge, poised, wearing a business suit and necktie, self-assured, and at-ease-while-fully-alert yet not quite relaxed. As Leonid Bershidsky puts it, in his interviews, “Putin has never once relaxed or relinquished control,” and he’s not about to start. This bears repeating because it is the underlying aspect of the persona I was watching on TV.

Bershidsky explains that Putin has one invariable message (emphasis added):

The message he has for foreign leaders hasn’t changed in 17 years: “Russia is a sovereign power with a set of historic interests that it will pursue no matter what; Western powers can’t tell Russia what to do.”

Putin makes it clear at every moment that he will do what is necessary to bring about what he sees as being in Russia’s best interest.

That, and that alone, is the most important takeaway from the interviews. Everything else is theater.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog.