In November 2016, Michigan-born martial artist and action film star Steven Seagal visited Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin to receive an unusual gift: his very own Russian passport.
Seagal's grandmother was born in Vladivostok, and the actor and Putin share a passion for martial arts. But Seagal has faced some criticism for his bromance with the Russian leader: He has praised Putin's annexation of Crimea, for example, and last year, Kiev banned him from entering Ukraine for five years, claiming he has “committed socially dangerous actions” that could threaten their security.
But on Saturday, Russia honored Seagal again, this time with a position as a special envoy to the United States.
In a Facebook post, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Seagal has been appointed to a new role, which will apparently be unpaid. His responsibility will be to “facilitate relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges.”
The Washington Post was unable to immediately reach Seagal for comment.
In 2015, BuzzFeed News reported that two years earlier, Putin had suggested to President Barack Obama that he could make Seagal the honorary Russian consul to California and Arizona. “Our reaction was, 'You’ve got to be kidding,' " a U.S. official told BuzzFeed, referring to the offer.
Russia isn't the only country offering overtures to Seagal. In 2016, Serbian state media reported that the government had offered Seagal citizenship for proposing to open a martial arts academy in Belgrade.
Seagal does seem particularly interested in the former Soviet Union. He's also visited with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. And in a 2013 interview with news channel RT, Seagal said he believed Putin “is one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader, alive today.”