A fascinating article has just appeared today in Komsomolskaya pravda by Dmitrii Smirnov of the Kremlin press corps on the importance of sport for the current generation of political leaders in Russia; in particular, those sports with practical application for self-defence. Vladimir Putin is the obvious example of a skinny young man on the streets of Leningrad who had to find an effective means of defending himself. He did so in Judo, and this has an obvious application to the way he behaves in the political realm.
Four years ago, the President explained his decision to go into Syria in terms of his experience of the Leningrad street: “if a fight is inevitable, you must be the first…” And when a senior aide, Sergei Kirienko, pained by extravagant public claims made by well wishers that he was a black belt in Aikido, asked his boss whether he could not participate in a open competition during a trip to Japan in order to win the belt he was presumed to possess, Putin, fully understanding his dilemma, immediately agreed.
President Trump, after all, was sent by his father to military school to sort him out, an emotional shock and a blistering experience daily at the hands of bullying drill sergeants. He, too, will very early on have learned to strike first when feeling threatened. It is thus perhaps not surprising to find a curious camaraderie among such leaders, whether at home or abroad. In as much as understanding the counterparty in negotiations matters, this degree of mutual identification should never be ignored as a factor making for success.