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Putin’s Portrayal in the Media

Nowadays people demand a lot from politicians. One cares not only about their actions in the political sphere, but the politicians’ images and ways in which they are portrayed by the media are also evaluated. A positive attitude towards politicians plays a huge role while giving preferences to somebody. It affects people so greatly that they may pick a politician who is not exactly honest and democratic. Vladimir Putin can be such an example. He is Russian president, and he is serving his third term as a president at the moment. Putin served as a president from 2000 to 2008, then he became Prime Minister, and in 2012, he was elected as a president for the third time. Previously, it was impossible for a president to serve more than two terms in Russia, but the constitution was changed. Consequently, Putin became the leader once again. There is a lot of criticism against Putin especially in the West. Therefore, many democratic leaders blame Putin for pressuring the opposition, violating human rights, and using unjust methods in politics. In Russia, there were protests against Putin with people opposing his rule calling him a dictator. Nevertheless, Putin continues to have a huge influence on the country, and his opinion matters in world politics. That is the reason why it is very important to focus attention on this person. Despite Putin’s great weight in world politics, one can say that Western media portray Putin as a dictator who is set negatively against West and tries to control everything within his reach. Nevertheless, Putin is also a serious politician who has to be taken into consideration, because he has a huge amount of resources and is not afraid to use them to achieve his goals. Putin’s lack of democratic perspectives scares the West, and Western politicians are often afraid to criticize Putin openly since they fear further military and market conflicts Putin has shown with Georgia and Ukraine. Nevertheless, although Putin is portrayed rather negatively by the Western media, he and his team try to change the situation by writing and communicating directly with the Western readers. Thus, one can say that Putin is portrayed as a tough and negative man one should not mess with, and who rules the country as a dictator, but tries to save his “human image” for the critics.

In order to save this “human face” and be more appealing to the Western audience, Putin has decided to communicate directly with Americans. He wrote an open letter which was published in The New York Times. There, he spoke about the current situation with Syria, and Russian-American relations (Putin). Interestingly, Putin tried to portray himself as a peacemaker who wanted to avoid conflict. He also wished to look like a protector of Americans implying that he wants to maintain peace and create stable lives for them. Putin wanted to portray himself as a person who no longer views the West as a threat to Russia. Moreover, he wanted to assure the West that people there should not fear Russia in return. While speaking about situation in Syria, Putin successfully criticized American government in a very sophisticated manner. Thus, he made it look like it was not a criticism, but rather wise advice from a “big brother.” Putin wrote about American exceptionalism and tried to explain the conflict by it. Then, he emphasized on the need to be peaceful by saying: “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement” (Putin). Hence, one can say that Putin wanted to break a stereotype of himself being an aggressive and pro-military dictator who would threaten everyone brave enough to oppose him. Putin’s position of a president has determined ethos of the article. His comparisons and reminiscences about the past and unity appealed to logos showing constructive arguments about Russia’s peacebuilding attitude. Putin appealed to pathos playing on the feelings concerning peace and maintaining stability. Still, one can note very distinguishing characteristics of his own writing which help to understand this political figure more. Although Putin does not support American exceptionalism, he is the bearer of Russian exceptionalism. He believes that Russia has a special role in political and historical context. Putin’s tone is the tone of a person who finds things outside Russia’s jurisdiction to be irrelevant, but as a “wise and caring” leader he finds it to be his duty to take care of things outside. One can see the confidence Putin tries to show through his writing. One can say that Russian president wants to create a fatherly figure of himself. Therefore, Americans and other Westerners should view him as a peace builder and somebody who can protect them.

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Western journalists’ views differ greatly from Putin perspective; they consider him to be an “arch manipulator with a mission to check US will” (Beaumont). The journalist portrays Putin as the one who can no longer follow political direction of USSR threatening everyone, but who would really like to do it. Putin nostalgically misses “good old times” when the Soviet Union was determining a lot of important geopolitical decisions. Things have changed, and Putin has to take these changes into consideration. He cannot be aggressive towards the strong political players, but his political appetites make him act aggressively towards less influential rivals. Still, to Westerners, Putin tries to show his positive side. He knows what Westerners want, and he tries to show that he can give it to them. Western media believe that Putin “appears to understand both the limits of post-Russian power and the tools available to him” (Beaumont). Newspaper’s journalist portrays Putin as a cynical but charismatic leader, who has a goal, and who knows exactly how to achieve it. He wants to rule and control, and he surely succeeds in that by wisely dividing and manipulating. The article states: “Putin interposed himself as a key political fixer under the patronage of Yeltsin-era figure” who uses such an approach with his political regime: “Don't destroy your enemies. Manipulate them and use them for your own goals” (Beaumont). Thus, one can see clearly how this newspaper portrays Putin, and what it expects from him. Surely, there is a lot of criticism, but there is also an appraisal of his cleverness and ability to use own weaknesses and take advantage of it. Putin, in the journalist’s eyes, is like a werewolf who successfully hides his true nature and hypnotizes others. The journalist uses pathos successfully appealing to readers’ emotions with this comparison. He also uses logos while constructing his arguments about Putin’s political appetites. Author’s experience serves as ethos for the article.

Putin is also the man of action whose influence cannot be ignored. This idea is widespread in the media. A great analysis can be found in the article published in Forbes that is called “Obama versus Putin: Can Obama muster the right stuff?” There, the author gives an appealing profile of Putin. He appeals to logos by providing arguments such as “Putin’s character is seen in the way he treats those whom he regards as personal enemies” (Johnson). Johnson also appeals to pathos by asking readers directly whether Putin is evil. He writes the following:

The fact that Putin isn’t totally beyond the reach of outside influence is something on which the West can build. He has a weakness–money–and by demanding and getting payoffs he is believed to have become one of the richest men on Earth.  Author’s and magazine’s authority appeal to the ethos because readers are very likely to believe a journalist’s detailed analysis.

Hence, one can say sum up everything about Putin with a great quote:

The difficulty is Russia and, in particular, its entrenched leader, Vladimir Putin. He rose through the ranks of the KGB and since worming his way into power has become the most difficult, dangerous and unassailable master of Russia since Joseph Stalin. Is he as evil? Many think so. Other things being equal, he’s a natural ally of terrorism. (Johnson)

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Putin is the one who may be feared and whose decisions matter, and that is why Western media pay so much attention to him. To them, he is not a mystery because his attitudes and political directions are rather obvious. Nevertheless, Putin is also well-known for many unpredictable decisions when he does something completely out of his role. Thus, media analyze his steps carefully, although they keep on viewing him as a cynic who uses the power for his own gains and manipulation.

Hence, one can make the conclusion that Putin is not an average politician. The fact that he uses manipulation and force when it comes to important political decisions makes him a dangerous player on the world political map. Media portray Putin as a leader who uses methods of the past for modern actions. Media criticize him, but they also view him as a strong force that has a lot of influence. Portrayal of Putin says a lot about American political and social life. It shows that democratic values mean a lot to Americans, and that is the reason they cannot accept Putin. One can conclude that the political situation in the Unites States is set up in such a way that it can recognize other leaders, but it will keep on emphasizing on liberalism and democracy within other states. In this case, the figure of Putin is opposite to American political ideal. Americans value leadership and that may be the reason why Putin seems to appeal to many Americans. The latter also value honesty, justice, humanistic and liberal methods. Therefore, they criticize Putin and consider that he lacks these qualities. Hence, media portray Putin in an adequate way giving credit for his actions, but also speaking the truth about his political regime and things he is doing. Open letters are not enough for Putin to change his image. In order to do that, he has to change his overall political attitude and become a democratic leader.