Can Stephen Harper learn something from Vladimir (Macho Man) Putin?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Vladimir Putin wants everyone to know that he is a macho macho man.

Last week, the Kremlin released video footage of the Russian president catching a really big fish.

According to Los Angeles Times, however, some Russians aren't buying the narrative about Putin's fishing prowess.

“This pike weighs no more than [26.5 pounds],” one social network user wrote. “Unless it swallowed a bar of gold.”

“They must have forgotten to unfreeze the pike,” another user commented. “This is why it was so heavy.” [Freezing does not add weight to matter.]

“The Kremlin must have weighed the pike the way they count the votes,” one observer wrote in an obvious reference to persistent complaints that the presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia were manipulated.

This is just the latest 'tough guy' video released by the Kremlin in recent years. In the past, the president has been featured in videos where he was seen wrestling, race car driving and even putting out a wildfire in a water bomber.

But in 2011, according to the Associated Press, the Kremlin was forced to admit that a video of Putin finding ancient artifacts at the floor of the Black Sea was a staged event.

So you can't really blame Russians for not believing this fishy story.

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Despite the doubters, Canadian political communications consultant Marcel Wieder says that Putin's videos are actually very politically astute.

"People in the old Soviet Union, especially in rural parts such as Siberia, have an affinity for strong leaders. In the past this was done through military strength culminating with the large show of force in the traditional May Day parades overseen by the top Kremlin leaders. With the breakup of the Soviet Union that military machismo as been replaced by their political leaders," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Putin understands that Russian society values strength and authority. Looking the part is just as important as the policies he enacts. Throughout his career he has taken pains to look fit, strong and in charge. This is to contrast western leaders who are portrayed as overweight, tired and more bureaucratic in the eyes of most Russians."

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But Wieder warns that such bravado wouldn't be a good idea for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Canada.

"Canadian leaders such as Harper would be well advised to be careful in emulating the Russian President. Harper has not shown a propensity for public physical exercise or engaged in more than a photo op with athletes. To suddenly be seen horseback riding, fishing or shooting would be out of character with what Canadians are familiar with to date," Wieder told Yahoo! Canada.

"In contrast President Obama is regularly seen playing basketball or golf. American Presidents are usually portrayed in some athletic endeavour. Canadian Prime Ministers have not had that same level of athleticism. So for Harper to take on this would certainly raise a few eyebrows and invite some cynicism."

In other words, don't expect to see footage of a shirtless Stephen Harper in a wrestling match anytime soon.

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