"One idea is that he is trying to formulate – subconsciously, perhaps – yet another way of distinguishing Russia from Europe. Consider half-naked Putin on horseback. He is a mysterious hybrid of a powerful animal and (rational) human. But the image is also heavily sexualized. A virile lover, if needs be, but also a fertile father. The father of a nation that is close to nature, tough, muscular, energetic. Quite different from those effeminate European males.Second, he seems to be saying: 'I love animals. So, I am not such a heartless dictator, as the Westerners tend to think I am.'Third, he says: 'I have a heart, but my love is tough, manly.' His message is: I am not a softie. I love animals (so I can love people), I can guide them, as a consummate leader, but I can also easily tame them as tough ruler. So, the message is tough love."
October 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM EDT