Is the United States of America the greatest country on earth? Writing in the New York Times on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin begged to disagree, taking issue with Barack Obama appeal to American exceptionalism during his national address on Syria this week.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin observed, in an op-ed arguing against U.S. military intervention in Syria. “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
But is Putin so sure he wants to go there? After all, there are plenty of things the Russian strongman loves that only prove American exceptionalism. Here are seven.
Second-Rate Action Stars
For someone who has made anti-Americanism a hallmark of his administration, Vladimir Putin has a strange affinity for that most excellent American export: shoddy movie stars. Exhibit A: the Russian president’s friendship with the actor Steven Seagal, whom Putin has brought along to martial arts competitions and whom Russian officials have floated as a potential spokesman for the country’s defense industry. If Seagal doesn’t embody “American exceptionalism,” surely the term itself is null and void.
While in Germany for a state visit in April, Putin was accosted by a protester from the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, which is best known for its topless protests. As you can tell above, Putin was pretty pleased at the development, which occurred during a stop at a trade fair in Hanover.
If there’s one thing the United States does exceptionally well, it’s bare-chested women. Mr. President, come to America! You’ll love it here!
In July, Putin boarded a miniature submarine to check out a wreck in the Baltic. But if he really wants to seek out some cutting-edge submarines, there’s no country like the United States. Last year, the filmmaker and explorer James Cameron became the first person to take a solo dive to the deepest point in the ocean.
Rhythm & Blues
In 2010, Putin decided it was a good idea to belt out the classic American track “Blueberry Hill.” The result was about as cringeworthy as you’d expect:
Mr. President, leave the rhythm & blues to the Americans, please:
Calling them his “brothers,” Putin joined up in 2011 with a biker gang known as the “Night Wolves” for a ride that commemorated World War II. But this group — though nationalistic enough for Putin’s taste — are really just a pale imitation of the original biker gang, the Hells Angels, an American original. Just look at that belly. Does anything say devil-may-care-outlaw quite like shaved stomach hair and a flaming skull?
Super Bowl Rings
In 2005, Putin met with Patriots owner Bob Kraft, asked to try on his Super Bowl ring, and loved the ring so much that he decided to keep it (Putin claims it was a gift). Have a look at the video below of Putin coveting the ring and decide for yourself whether Putin knew what he was doing:
It all just goes to show, no one does gaudy jewelry — or football — quite like America.
Just look at this amazing photo of Putin getting nuzzled by his dogs. Perhaps you were once upset about Putin jailing dissidents and discriminating against gay people. Perhaps you don’t care for the way he’s sanctioned the slaughter in Syria. But come on! The big dog on the right is even named Buffy! At the end of the day Putin is just another misunderstood guy with his heart in the right place.
But in the puppy propaganda wars, does Putin even come close to Obama? Look at this guy:
What youth! What vitality! What energy! Just another ordinary guy tossing the pigskin around with good ol’ Bo.
American exceptionalism? You betcha.
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| Passport |