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Putin's Pimped Out Plane

10:07 AM, Feb 1, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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A series of photographs showing Russian President Vladimir Putin's pimped out plane recently appeared on a Russian blog operated by a man identified only as "hectop." I first saw the story over on FP Passport, where Blake Hounshell speculated that the opulent interior might spark a backlash against the president. "It'll be interesting to see if the Russian public reacts to the photos like some Venezuelans did back in 2002, when they discovered the luxuriousness of Hugo Chávez's own private IL-96-300," said Hounshell.

It's easy to understand why Venezuelans would be bothered by Chávez's lavish transportation, though from the BBC story Hounshell links to, it seems the hypocrisy may have been lost on most of his supporters. Far more bizarre is the resistance of the British to the purchase of a new aircraft for their own prime minister. That stinginess has forced Blair to fly commercial for any trip that isn't related to affairs of state and led to an incident last Christmas that saw Blair's British Airways flight skid off a runway at Miami International Airport. It's as though the British public is determined to cast off any remaining vestiges of great-power status. After all, the Royal Yacht was decommissioned nearly ten years by Blair's own party. No surprise then that the opposition fought tooth and nail to stymie Blair's plan for a new jet. (Blair did get his way, but he'll have to share the refurbished 737 with the Queen. In the event of a scheduling conflict, the prime minister will have to find other arrangements.)

My guess is the Russian people will expect their president to travel in luxury befitting a czar--unlike the British, the Russian people still believe their country is a great power, despite the crumbling of the Soviet empire. Hounshell also writes that "what started out as poking fun at Putin's grotesque taste could well end up getting someone in deep trouble." That point is well taken, hectop would be wise to purchase a dosimeter.

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