- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
The Vladimir Putin-Steven Seagal bromance that captured the world’s hearts just became official. On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin granted the B-list American actor and ponytail aficionado Russian citizenship in a decree published on the Kremlin’s website.
Seagal, known for his acting, martial arts, and musical prowess (warning: graphic audio content), has gained notoriety in recent years thanks to his cultivation of a high-profile friendship with the Russian president, even as U.S.-Russia relations went south.
As if vying to outdo Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Seagal has called Putin “one of the greatest world leaders.” Seagal and Putin became close through their mutual love of martial arts — Putin has a grandmaster rank in taekwondo and an eighth-degree black belt in karate — and the actor’s occasional visits to Russia.
“This [was his] desire, he had really applied. He had been really persistent for a long time and been asking to grant him citizenship, he is actually renown for his quite warm feelings toward our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told press when the news was announced. Seagal first said that he was interested in Russian citizenship in September.
This isn’t Seagal’s first foray into the world of international diplomacy. In 2013, Putin tried to make Seagal an honorary diplomatic envoy for Russia to California and Arizona. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin thought that Seagal could leverage his “authority and connections in the American establishment” to help broker US-Russia small arms sales agreements. Sadly, the White House politely declined.
In 2014, Seagal held a concert in Crimea for pro-Russian separatists shortly after Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula; legal scholars are split on whether subjecting the audience to his guitar playing violated the Geneva Conventions.
Seagal is not the first celebrity Russia has courted for citizenship. American MMA fighter Jeff Monson applied for Russian citizenship and was the first American to receive citizenship from a separatist Russian entity in Ukraine, as FP reported in September. In 2013, Putin extended citizenship to Gérard Depardieu after the French actor’s fight with the French government over taxes.
Photo Credit: ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images