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The Cable

Vladimir Putin Takes His Bromance with Steven Seagal to the Next Level

In what promises to be a watershed moment for U.S.-Russia relations, the Kremlin just granted Steven Seagal Russian citizenship.


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

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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