I understand that come next spring, if elected President of the United States, Barack Obama is going to have a full schedule of coffee klautches and smoothing things over with Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il.
But after hearing reports of last Thursday’s testy press conference in Moscow, I’m going to suggest that he give cranky Russian President Vladimir Putin an extra-big helping of TLC.
Understandably, it’s probably not fun to be term-limited out of power. And Putin has to deal with the stress of switching from President to Puppeteer-in-Chief next month after his hand-picked patsy, Dmitry Medvedev, is installed in his place. (It’s a cinch Medvedev is in, because he’s the only candidate that the electorate knows about, thanks to the Putin’s state-run media.)
So, clearly Putin’s snarls about snot and borsch last Thursday were just a plaintive plea for understanding. Our insecure little ex-KGB agent needs validation and reassurance in several important areas, and I know that would-be President Obama is our man to make sure the outcome is a win-win for everyone. Here’s how:
- Find the proper setting. Be creative! The main thing is to create a safe space to nourish those first tender shoots of brotherhood. Perhaps they might pop in at Starbucks and then find a quiet shady spot outside of the old KGB building where the statue of Felix Dzershinsky used to stand.
- Connect with Putin’s subconcious need for authentic validation by encouraging him to express his inner child. For example, Obama could say: “I know you must feel left out and rejected because the European Election Monitors are boycotting your blatantly fraudulant national elections, but that’s okay! You’re entitled to embrace your feelings of anger and alienation.”
- Always look for the bright side. Overt negativity would only deprive Putin of self worth and damage his self esteem. For example: “It was downright touching to observe how the Russian journalists love you. Bowing, scraping, and kissing your feet may have been a little over the top, but nobody’s here to judge. Clearly those reporters aren’t concerned that thirteen of their less-fawning colleagues have been mysteriously murdered since you took office – they’re your biggest fans!”
- Communicate empathy and create a culture of understanding. For example: “After the post traumatic stress of invading country after country during the 20th century; enslaving, imprisoning, and impoverishing their populations; terrorizing them with secret police, gulags, torture, and show trials; it’s perfectly normal that under your leadership Russia has become hostile, insecure, and suspicious.”
- Find and then celebrate shared values. For example: “I can see how a small-potatoes missile shield in Eastern Europe would seem highly threatening to Russia’s security. In America there are protective devices everywhere…bullet-proof vests, safety goggles, welding hoods, motorcycles helmets, etc. I can sort of understand how one could find those things frightening… I guess. But here’s the good news. These weapons shields wouldn’t work against your big bombs! They’re for smaller weaponry such as those one might purchase from Iran. You can still nuke your neighbors anytime you want to! And they know it! Now let them try to join NATO! Doesn’t that make you feel better?”
If Obama follows these guidelines, I guarantee that all his good intentions will succeed… at least as well as they did for Carter.