Putin v. Obama: The Match Obama Can’t Win

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin (not to be confused with the character in The Idiot), takes pride in his dear leader and his dear country. With apparently no hint of tongue in cheek, Rogozin tweeted a side-by-side picture of Putin cuddling with a leopard and Obama holding a pathetic toy poodle. His caption was: У нас разные ценности и союзники. Which translated, means, “We have different values and allies.”

The whole situation with Ukraine, Edward Snowden, Putin’s New York Times intervention over Syria, and the generally bleak prospect of America’s international position has intensified an already existent antagonism between Putin and Obama. Putin, the ex-KGB hand that he is, is definitely winning in the PR department. He knows exactly how to get under Obama’s skin. Obama, and America by association, is seen as corrupt, effete, wasted, and washed-up. Russia is seen as manly, virile, assertive, and on the rise.

From Stalin to Krushchev, Russia’s supreme leaders have a history of bombast. They regularly projected a public image of stoic, stalwart, steely supermen—inscrutable, shrewd, and manly. Putin is just picking up where they left off. Perhaps taking it even further. From shirtless horse-back riding to posing with large predatory animals to hang-gliding with migratory birds, Putin wants the world to know he’s a tough-minded, steel-willed, man of a man.

Obama, on the other hand, wants to be seen as peaceful, reasonable, scholarly, open-minded, liberal, blah blah blah. Which everyone knows means one thing: he’s a gurly-mahn. But seriously, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if Obama wanted to present that image. He could speak softly and be a little light in his loafers. JFK presented a similar image. But there is a difference between JFK and Obama. A major one. Underneath the young and peace-minded exterior, JFK had real resolve. He had real steel. Obama doesn’t. Can you imagine Obama navigating the Cuban Missile Crisis. We’d have been nuked.

Obama has proven over and over again that the soft exterior he shows to the world goes all the way to his core. He has no convictions. He has no backbone. He gets what he wants by sidestepping, manipulating, and conniving. Not by forthright communication, dogged pursuit of available processes, and tough-minded perseverance. When international situations arise that challenge his resolve, he backs down. Every time. So the picture dear Rogozin from Mother Russia tweeted was not just another episode in an on-going pissing match—though it is that. In many ways, it actually does represent the major differences between Obama and Putin. And that should scare you.