Vlad Putin is the strong leader we so desperately lack, according to some of my Right-thinking readers. Strength is a quality they admire more than anything else in a leader, brushing aside snide remarks coming from cynical naysayers.
Those usually feature a rota of strong leaders who nonetheless failed to earn universal admiration. Depending on the naysayer’s frame of reference, he may start with such undeniably strong leaders as Alaric, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, or simply limit himself to more up-to-date figures, such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao.
Those animadversions typically cut no ice because true love can’t be affected by incidentals. We like for something; we love in spite of everything. And those Right-thinking chaps love Vlad with all their hearts.
Therefore, I hold no hope that, by mentioning a few current achievements of Vlad’s reign, I’m going to change anyone’s lovelorn mind. What follows is merely to keep the record straight.
Let’s start with one of those innocent details where the devil resides. Russia is gearing up for this summer’s World Cup, and Samara is one of the cities where football will be played. Since Samara’s existing stadium isn’t up to scratch, a new one had to be built.
Funds were allocated and, in the good Russian tradition, equably divided among the offshore accounts of everyone involved in the project. That being par for the course, there were no repercussions, and a new batch of cash arrived.
This was properly used to buy the requisite construction materials – which too were instantly pilfered. Eventually, however, the construction did start, way behind schedule. There was every danger that the stadium wouldn’t be ready for the summer kick-off.
That’s where the strong leader rode in and saved the day. Vlad rang the contractor and, after impugning his mother’s sexual morality, told him in his Stalinesque manner: “If you blow the deadline, I’ll slap you in pokey.”
Stalin would have said “I’ll have you shot”, but Vlad is trying to get in touch with his feminine side. Now imagine, if you can, any Western leader credibly making the same threat to a general contractor.
May? Macron? Merkel? No way. Even Vlad’s strong friend Donald would fall short. You see, those countries anachronistically cling to the notion of due process. No matter how strong their leader is, he can’t imprison people on his say-so. So draw your own conclusion about Russia while I move on.
A few days ago, an explosive device went off in a Petersburg supermarket. Though no one was killed or badly hurt, an investigation was in order.
But strong leaders won’t be held back by such time-wasting formalities. Practically before the police arrived on the scene, Vlad declared the explosion an act of terrorism and ordered his special forces not to take any prisoners. “Liquidate the bandits on the spot,” barked the strong leader.
This was an equivalent of Vlad’s earlier promise to “whack’em in the shithouse”. However, even forgetting due process, there are a couple of problems with issuing such orders.
First, a terrorist ‘whacked’ in public facilities or elsewhere will fall not only dead but also silent and therefore unable to lead investigators to his accomplices. And then, of course, special forces encouraged to shoot suspects without trial may just expand their remit a wee bit and whack a few people whose only crime is disliking the strong leader.
The interesting thing is that many Russians are sure that Vlad himself ordered the explosion, the better to rally the populace.
Vlad has form in that sort of thing, having consolidated his position in 2001 by having several apartment blocks blown up. (For details, I recommend the book Blowing Up Russia, co-authored by Alexander Litvinenko, whose literary exploits won the Polonium Award from a grateful Vlad.)
Now I have no idea whether Vlad was involved this time. Actually, I suspect not. But let’s just note that the aforementioned weak leaders May, Manny and Angela were never subjected to such ugly suspicions after terrorist acts in their own countries. Ever wonder why?
Moving right along, an open season on Russians who fail to admire the strong leader as much as Peter Hitchens does is continuing in full swing. Quite a few anti-Putin activists have been bagged in the run-up to Christmas.
One such, Vladimir Ivanyutenko, was attacked outside his house in Petersburg. The attackers first Tasered him, then stabbed him several times. Before losing consciousness, the victim whispered “NOD” (a pro-Kremlin gang). He’s now fighting for his life in intensive care.
In Krasnodar, another activist, Andrey Rudomakha, was beaten up with a knuckleduster. He’s now in hospital with a serious concussion and broken nose. His crime was photographing seaside palaces belonging to Putin’s billionaire cronies.
The journalist Vyacheslav Prudnikov was shot several times near Rostov. The attacker specified that the punishment was inflicted for Mr Prudnikov’s anti-Vlad articles.
Alexei Stroganov, member of the democratic opposition, was hit on the head with a steel pipe. He died recently, having spent two months in a coma.
A steel pipe saw the light of day again, when Nikolai Liaskin, head of staff to the opposition leader Alexei Navalnyi, was hit on the head twice. He’s in hospital with a bad concussion and cranial trauma.
The journalist Vladimir Shchipitzyn was attacked in his own doorway. An unknown man first blinded him with a pepper spray, then hit him with a knuckleduster several times and put the boot in when the victim was writhing on the ground. “Don’t write any more f***ing s*** about good people,” advised the attacker, “or next time it’ll be worse.”
Ivan Skripnichenko was keeping vigil next to the Kremlin, on the spot where the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov had been murdered. Ivan was beaten up by a man shouting: “So you don’t like Putin?” A week later Skripnichenko died from his injuries.
And so it goes, on and on, strong leadership at work. You know what? I’d rather stay in a country where leadership is weak. Those who feel differently should move to Vlad’s bailiwick. I’d be curious to know how they’ll feel about strong leadership a month or two later.