It is not usual to see President Putin directly criticised in the mainstream Russian press for anything. And the only indirect criticisms usually relate to the management of the economy. But Nezavisimaya gazeta has published an article under the title ‘Vladimir Putin has refuted the laws of physics.’ This follows Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly on 1 March.
What the President claimed was that Russia now possessed a cruise missile that not only could the enemy not detect and shoot down but that it had a nuclear warhead and a ‘heavy duty nuclear energy unit’ on board!??? This would indeed be a miracle of miracles as an American Tomahawk weighs about 1.5 tones. As Nezavisimaya gazeta says: ‘no one in the world (even in Russia), one must suggest, has yet created and will scarcely ever create a nuclear reactor with a total weight of only half a ton.’
Worse still, this blooper was followed by another – that Russia had an unmanned intercontinental submarine – which had to be denied by the Commander of the Russian Fleet Admiral V. Korolev, a denial published in the same newspaper on the same day.
It is entirely possible that this is part and parcel of the ineptitude of the General Staff, forever exaggerating Russia’s military capabilities and successes in the field while failing to protect forces in place, whether regular or mercenary. After all someone failed to brief the President and his aides adequately and to the precise detail required for gobal scrutiny. Did Putin suddenly improvise? ‘There is the suspicion that the military simply tripped up the head of state’, the newspaper suggested. Or have the public relations graduates also taken over the Kremlin? The tendency to exaggerate is not unknown among Putin’s foreign competitors. There is a lot of flu going about. It appears from his handkerchief that Putin has not entirely got over a ‘cold’ he caught mid-February. What has he been taking for it? Has the President instead been laid low by pre-election jitters and infected by a case of highly infectious, triumphal Trumpism?