Big Bad Vlad Photo-Ops for Russian Presidency

America has a president who can’t throw a baseball or play basketball without getting a booboo. He’s so henpecked and overwhelmed by the tax bill, he’s not even able to finish a news conference without help from big daddy Bubba.

By contrast, Russia’s prime minister is on some kind of photo-opping mission. In the space of just a few years, Vladimir Putin has taken on a wide assortment of daring adventures and stunts, all carefully photographed in the most flattering style. In doing so, Putin has wiped away 50 years of visuals of stodgy, dowdy Soviet dour-pusses.

Former Russian President Leonid Brezhnev

More Brezhnev than we ever need to know

Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev

Vladimir Putin has been making macho for at least two years.:  Oddly enough,: 2008 was about the time:  his poll numbers began to drop below the popularity of the much-younger, handsome president Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Putin has poured it on: He allowed himself to be photographed riding a horse shirtless, swimming in an ice cold lake, he took a rad-spin in a Formula One race car, hunted a whale with a cross bow, flipped younger men to show his judo prowess at a tournament, he flew a plane to fight wildfires in Russia, flew a fighter jet, shot ( and tranquilized ) a tiger that was attacking a television crew, and he’s been known to hang with Hollywood action heroes.

Vladmir Putin flexes for the cameras on camping trip

Combine his shadowy KGB background with his new pectoral-flexing hipness and bravado and suddenly Vladimir Putin is some sort of Roosky rock star. He’s 58 years old and married, but his “beefcake” is moving the mercury up the thermometer.

Putin swims in Siberian lake

Putin Vodka has become wildly popular. Russian coeds spontaneously stripped off their babushkas to make an erotic calendar for his birthday.

Putin is so comfortable with his masculinity, he even took a daring step at a charity fundraiser this weekend….crooning Blueberry Hill … English to standing ovations from the Hollywoodies.

So why all the Putin “puff and stuff?”

Since undertaking the unofficial “Vlad’s so Bad” campaign, Putin’s popularity ratings are soaring. Recent WikiLeaks documents show Putin is clearly pulling the strings of the puppet Medvedev. But there’s more to it.

During his presidency, the Kremlin deliberately promoted Mr Putin’s vigour as symbolic of revived Russian power in contrast to the era of his drunken and sickly predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Many Russians were proud that their President projected such a virile image abroad.

The latest images are likely intended to remind them that Mr Putin is in robust health exactly a decade after he first came to power as acting Prime Minister in August 1999. The unspoken subtext is that he would be fit to return as president in 2012 if he chose to, ruling for up to another 12 years.

It’s a very simple concept and Putin masters it: Even the “image” of power begets more power.

And vice-versa.

Cross-posted at

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