Amanda Taub and Johnny Harris analyze the bizarrely-staged photo ops in which the Russian president is seen to enjoy a "Walter Mitty-esque fantasy life" where he "subdues tigers, rides horses, and communes with dolphins:" this is politics in Russia.
It's a reminder to the Russian public — and to the Russian elite, whose support Putin relies on — that Putin is healthy, he is in control, and he is going to stay that way. All of that matters a great deal in Russia. Russian political power is centralized with Putin, and if he were to suddenly die or become ill, it's not at all clear what would happen next. … Photos of Putin looking shirtless, healthy, and powerful are a way to reassure the public that there's no need to worry. If Putin is fine, then Russia is fine. But consider the implication of that assertion: if Putin is not fine, then neither is Russia. The scary part is that's probably correct.Read the rest