Kremlin Chameleon
March Putin vs. April Putin: Can You Spot the Difference?

In March, Vladimir Putin was the “Terminator.” This month, he’s Mr. Congeniality. What’s behind the sudden shift in rhetoric?

Published on: April 23, 2014
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  • Julie Leighton

    Although the phraseology may be different, is there a fundamental change between Putin’s March and April rhetoric? Has his message altered? Are his goals different? Has his overall direction shifted course?

    No, everything remains the same. March’s “Terminator” and April’s “Mr. Congeniality” are two sides of the same coin. What did change, and what can account for us seeing both of sides of Putin’s personality in such quick succession, was the format of the announcements.

    In March, Putin delivered his address to the nation while standing at a podium. He was tense, brash, aggressive, and overly defensive about Crimea and Russia’s involvement. The international community had discredited the referendum. Western politicians were openly questioning his competence and sanity; pundits were accusing him of beginning a new Cold War; and others were openly comparing him to Hitler. He was effectively being attacked from all sides, and this was very apparent in his conference. He alone was accountable, and he was pinned to the wall.

    April’s telethon saw a very different character. He was seated and surrounded by officials, casual, congenial, agreeable, willing to interact and debate, he even entertained questions from the dissenting intelligentsia. Why? This was Putin as a man of the people. Here he was accountable to his domestic audience, who he is largely popular with. The questions were carefully and obviously filtered, the quoted statistics, histories and facts were easily amended to accommodate Putin’s actions. Anything that verged on being disagreeable or unpleasant was literally laughed off. Everything was carefully staged and scripted. Putin was cheerful–and why shouldn’t he be? Surrounded as he was by supporters and admirers?

    Has Putin really changed? Is there a true difference between the March and April versions? No, he is the same. The West should not be fooled by April’s stagecraft.

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