Vladimir Putin called me this morning. He was his usual confidence but I sensed a tad of worry.
When Putin calls there must be a reason.
Vlad: “I did what you advised but it doesn’t work.”
Me: “Okay, I am listening.”
Me: “Well, he complimented you by calling you “the most dangerous man the world has ever seen, potentially”. He even compared you to Hitler, but now with nuclear weapons. Many Dutch people are more afraid of you than ever. So you should agree that it works.”
Vlad: “Yes, of course, I watched the programme, shooting seventy tv sets to pieces. We agreed that I should experiment with democracy, so I let him have his say, so that everyone can see what idiot he is. But I don’t see a headline in The New York Times “Kasparov shows himself a great fool”. If this is democracy then I am glad that I am against it.”
Me: “But if you want people to understand that you are the most dangerous man the world has ever seen, then you need clowns like Kasparov who say so, since nobody else will dare this. Thus you cannot have the NYT to expose him as a clown, since then people will no longer listen to him, and people will no longer believe that you are the most dangerous man the world has ever seen.”
Putin went silent on the other side of the line.
Me: “Listen, democracy is a game in which you can never lose. You only have to understand its rules.”
Vlad: “I don’t play by rules. Why do you think that I am called dangerous ?”
Me: “Excuse me, I should have said “understand how it works”. You have to hand it to Kasparov: how he explained that you are no chess player since chess has rules while you are rather a poker player so that you can win even when your cards are lousy. Can’t you remember that chess game by you and me ?”
Vlad: “I thought that a silly comparison. When I play poker then I don’t have to bluff since I can always put in some nukes. But okay, I begin to understand why this interviewer Pieter Jan Hagens didn’t fall from his chair from laughter. He wanted his viewers to think that the idiot was given his freedom of speech.”
Me: “Exactly. Do also observe that Kasparov spoke with an interviewer and not with some top Dutch politicians. Kasparov could have asked them some embarrassing questions on MH17 and the Dutch Shell co-operation with Gazprom. The politicians on their part could have asked Kasparov for some real measures to hurt you. Neither happened. The trick of Dutch journalists is that they have wedged themselves into a position where they ask the questions and get paid a top income for that. Of course, such journalists are actually superfluous. People in top positions are quite capable to ask such questions themselves. They only need someone to announce who will be on the show: and anybody can do so and at a minimum wage. But this is how democracy works.”
Vlad: “And Pieter Jan Hagens thus made sure that there was no real political debate. I had to pay him for that too. I like the guy. I should invite him to Moscow to teach his tricks to my people. And they could teach him their tricks too.”
I could not suppress a shudder. I felt happy that this was a normal phone without views.
Vlad: “Still, Angela Merkel had this idiot Tsipras visiting her, and she got media coverage from all over the world, while my democratic experiment with Kasparov went unnoticed. I let the joker live ! Isn’t anybody grateful for that ?”
Me: “That is the price of being a dictator. This is a democratic world and you are the odd-man out. You will see that reaction again when Tsipras will visit you on April 8. I already wondered why you didn’t see the plight of the Greek people. If you receive and treat him while behaving as a dictator, then the world press will regard it as a non-event, but if you receive him as the inventor of democracy and a great inspiration for the European future, then the media will go berzerk.”
Vlad: “I don’t get you. You want Russia to take its example from Greece ?”
Me: “That would be a great headline ! You are doing fantastic ! Your small experiment with Kasparov on Dutch television is opening up your mind to possibilities that I hadn’t thought of myself ! Yes, look into that weird Greek system of democracy in which the largest party gets 50 seats extra. Check how Russian corruption can learn from Greek corruption in a democracy. Check how Tsipras has an inner circle with other clowns like Yannis Varoufakis, so that Kasparov’s discussion about your inner circle replacing you becomes even more silly. Check how a small determined country can wreak havoc on the world economic system, while you need a huge army and your nukes and still get expelled from the G8. I regard our discussion as very fruitful and promising. My compliments to you, the most dangerous man the world has ever known, potentially.”
Vlad, apparently pleased, but still with a tad of worry, as always when he was considering a democratic idea: “I don’t like that “potentially”. I am thinking that I will let Kasparov live a bit longer. I want him to see what I am potentially capable of.”