Oct 20, 2014 | RUSSIAN GLAS•NOT

Putin: La Dolce Vita or How to Survive World Summits

World summits are usually drab affairs and more so for those leaders whom a lot of their peers are quite antagonistic to and basically can't wait to see the back of. Vladimir Putin is one of those leaders. And the EU-Asia summit in Milan this month was no different.

 

Of course it is never Putin's intention to be liked or "make friends" at such gatherings but rather to project an aura of intransigent righteousness and impervious predominance, all wrapped in a hollow willingness of cooperation and reason. Although Putin is a natural for this kind of layered act, it can take a toll even on the best of Machiavellians when dealing with a hostile audience of international peers who don't really believe a world you say and are even openly belligerent.

 

Many have been the times that this climate of mistrust and antagonism has climaxed in some kind of school-yard-type altercation, with the occasional sore limb or bruised ego. Brawls like these, once considered diplomatically embarrassing and hidden from public knowledge, have of late become a platform for leaders to promote their persona of "tough guy" or "shrewd tactician" as well as to score points domestically. Nowadays they are even advertised in advance, as the latest publicized invitation  for a "shirt-front" duel attests. Addressed to Putin by Australia's combative Tony Abbott in an effort to enliven the forthcoming G20 summit in Perth. An exclusive fight club is not that far behind being officially established under G20 or UN auspices.

 

As a rule, EU leaders are not particularly gung-ho where skirmishes are concerned, so this month's summit in Milan and the side-meetings about Ukraine were especially humdrum for Putin. Following long hours upon hours of mind-numbing sessions with such stiff, stern people as Angela Merkel and her all-too-serious European posse, pretending to be dialectical about such trivial issues as the Ukrainian conflict that are in reality settled non-issues (according to Putin), it is only natural for any infallible ruler, let alone a hot-blooded infallible ruler like the Russian president, to need some distraction, a je-ne-sais-quoi touch of light-heartiness.

 

And where else could one find that, than in one of Silvio Berlusconi's, the erstwhile Italian soap-operatic Prime Minister, bunga-bungalicious soirées. A place where a world-stage protagonist can for a moment or two leave his troubles behind, brush aside the everyday demands of his pivotal position and simply unwind with a couple (or couple of dozen if he feels exceedingly sociable) of barely overage voluptuous beauties, alcohol of his choice and a mutton & cabbage pizza. Not to mention an opportunity for some late-night quality time over cigars, brandy and gratuitous female nudity in the company of a dear old friend whom he shares with the same passion for power accumulation and media manipulation. It is therefore no wonder that Putin left Silvio's at almost 4am despite the fact that he had an early morning meeting that same morning and that he highly values his beauty sleep.

 

Despite his late night, summit participants the next day reported that Putin did not show any signs of tiredness or absentmindedness; he was his usual taciturn, abrupt, zoned-out self.