In February, he demonstrated a breath-taking ignorance of how things are done in America when he criticized President Bush for firing Dan Rather.
Yesterday, he effectively undermined any good-will gains he intended to achieve through sending food to Africa by criticizing that continent's supposed history of cannibalism.
Now, the interesting thing is that Putin did not criticize Bush for firing Dan Rather. I already wrote about in one of my post. I also don’t believe that the wrong translation of Putin’s words was unintentional. Everyone who knows just a bit of Russian knows this linguistic peculiarity of using the word ‘vy’ (you). The illiterate translator at least could apologize later for his blunder and “unbiased” networks and newspapers who ridiculed Putin on his ignorance could also apologize.
Now talking about Putin criticizing Africa’s supposed history of cannibalism. ‘The Sun” published their own version of what Putin actually said and it seems like an intentional clogging of facts. What really happened? At the above-mentioned conference, one of the journalists asked a question about Putin’s intentions to crush opposition parties in Russia. Putin answered that in some African country not very long ago there was practice to eat political opponents but Russia is not that country. He definitely meant General Bokassa of Central African Republic (or Central African Empire in his times). In 1987, Bokassa was arrested and charged with torture, murder, and cannibalism. Convicted of murdering several political opponents, he was sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison. What kind of racism did Sun find about this fact? Mentioning the fact that Stalin sent thousands of his political opponents to Siberia doesn’t sound Russophobic to me.
I was often told not to take too emotionally Russia bashing in American media because (supposedly) smart people in the US don’t trust their media. I like John Walter’s blog and I’m sure he is a smart person but... Just any information about Russia in American media (esp. in Washington Post and Wall Street Journal) should always be checked for objectivity. They love to juggle with facts when it comes to Russia.
As for Putin’s weird sense of humor – Russians in general like it. I personally hate it (esp. his joke about getting terrorists in an outhouse) although my respect for Putin as a person and a president is very high. Putin is a Russian president and Russians elected him. I don’t find it strange that Putin tries to please his people. On the other hand, people like Bush or Blair would have no chances to be elected in Russia. Their speeches and the manner they speak would remind Russians too much about Brezhnev and years of communist demagogy.