That Vladimir Putin is not yet quite sealed in the popular public mind as Public Enemy Number One must be a source of some consternation in the halls of both Fleet Street and Whitehall these days.
After all, the regime he leads, in large part built in his own image, is obviously deeply illiberal by most Western standards, a state of affairs spelled out to us time and again.
From bare-chested bear chaser to jailer of feminists and oppressor of homosexuals and (neither being anything personal, just the quid pro quo of building bridges with the Orthodox Church and deriving the support thereof), our political class and media has been gifted endless opportunity to illustrate Putin’s many and varied shortcomings – and unless I’ve nodded off at some point not one has been missed.
A figure ludicrous and intolerant, unreasonable and aggressive has been drawn for our consumption. And yet...
Intolerant? Of course he is – and yet we all know no more intolerant, less so I’d bet, than whichever set of visiting Middle East Royals is next to get red carpet treatment off our given head of state up Buck Pal.
And enlighten me, please – which of the negative attributes outlined above cannot be readily ascribed to any number of states and individuals with which Britain and the wider West enjoys cordial relations? A bald truth, in this age of information, unknown only by those who care not to know.
The Ukraine crisis has helped our leaders not one jot. Surely, they must be thinking, now, we have the foundations upon which to build a plausible baddie! An expansionist bully! A tyrant! A Goldstein upon which to focus fear and loathing! An area has been annexed! Troops mass on the border! Moscow backs Pro-Russian protester/terrorists!
That is what we are told, some of it likely true. But who swallows this lot as the alpha and omega of the situation? We are post-Iraq. Which explains why Alastair Campbell can ‘out’ Alec Salmond as a tacit admirer of Putin in GQ and the first thought which pops into most heads is who cares what a key figure in the most duplicitious period of UK government since Thatcher’s war against the miners says or thinks about anything?
Could Putin’s relative popularity be mostly down to the well-earned contempt we now reserve for our owndemonstrably venal, serial wolf crying political clique?
Our enemies’ enemy...