Vladimir Putin at a staged photo shoot with models posing as brides, which was later presented to Russian and foreign media as Putin's random encounter with a group of real brides who charmed him to take some "selfies" while encircled by bodyguards. Red Square in Moscow, September 2016 (Image: TASS)
Many in the US have seen Vladimir Putin’s talk about media reports concerning Donald Trump and Russian prostitutes as yet another case in which the Kremlin leader can’t keep himself from saying and doing things designed to keep that issue alive, even while denying that it is true.
But more than one Russian commentator has pointed to the obvious: Putin’s comments about Russian prostitutes say far more about the way Putin views the world and the nature of the regime he heads than they do about Trump or anyone else. Among the best of those making that argument is Moscow journalist Karina Orlova.
In a comment reposted on the Ekho Moskvy portal, she argues that a careful reading of what Putin said raises some serious questions about Putin’s view of the world and even more his preferred modus operandi and casts doubt not only on his claims about other things but about his adequacy as a ruler.
Putin asked “Does anyone think that our special services chase after every American billionaire?” But to say that, Orlova points out, is to raise some other questions: “Is it only every third or every fifth or are there certain criteria for selection?” Perhaps, Putin’s special services do that only for those worth more than $20 billion or who are older than 30?
“Of course,” she says, “the FSB tracks every more-or-less important foreigner who comes to Russia,” just as it tracks Russians. “That is,” she notes, it goes after everyone who is in Russia (and not only there).” The Russian effort in this regard is different in degree and hence in kind than the intelligence operations other governments run against foreign leaders.
Second, Putin said that he had difficulty imagining that Trump would “sleep with prostitutes because ‘this is an adult who for long years has been involved in the organization of beauty contests and has met with the most beautiful women of the world.”
What is striking about that remark, Orlova says, is that Putin didn’t see the fact that Trump is married as being a limiting factor even though both leaders like to talk about “family values.” Instead, it was only a question of opportunity and perhaps of price – a reflection of the pattern in Russian today when those at the top get divorces and then take lovers.
Third, and following on the same remark, Putin clearly does imagine that “if you are a billionaire, you can get any woman, especially if she is a participant in a beauty contest, and especially if you are the billionaire who is the organizer of that competition.” In this way, Putin showed that he shares Trump’s view given the latter’s earlier comments about how available women are to anyone who is “a star.”
And fourth, Putin declared that he had difficult imagining that Trump “ran to the hotel to get involved with our girls of low social responsibility.” As Orlova says, that remark suggests just how the Kremlin dictator views all those “who poorly fulfill their social obligations.” But then Putin added that of course, Russia’s prostitutes “are the best in the world.”
“Only one question remains,” Orlova says. “Why does Vladimir Putin head the rating of the most influential people according to Forbes and his Philippine colleague Rodrigo Duterte isn’t yet on it?” Clearly, their vision of what people are like and what the powerful can do to them in order to remain in power are all too similar.
In addition to commentaries like hers, the Russian Internet in the wake of Putin’s latest comments has been filled with stories detailing how the FSB now and the KGB earlier gather compromising information on visiting foreigners and ordinary Russians, including their use of a special system of sound and video recording.
Little of this will be new to those with experience in Russia or the Soviet Union, but some articles, especially one entitled “The FSB Film Studio. How the Special Services Take Compromising Videos in Hotels” do provide confirmation–if confirmation is needed–of just how vast and, for the Kremlin, vital that system remains.
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