“We have different values and allies,” tweeted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin yesterday of Russia and the United States. To illustrate, the Russian official posted a split-screen of photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama–the former holding a leopard, the latter holding a Bichon Frise.
We have different values and allies pic.twitter.com/aJ1312jJNx
– Dmitry Rogozin (@DRogozin) July 31, 2014
The tweet was widely circulated among Rogozin’s Russian followers both on his Russian and English-language accounts, and widely interpreted to be a dig at President Obama’s manliness (and not a declaration that Russia is a nation of cat people).
The Telegraph reports that it was retweeted 600 times in two hours in Russian alone. While the photo of President Obama holding the bichon has been circulating on the internet since at least 2012 and may have been the product of his Senate campaign, the image of Putin with a leopard is relatively new, the result of a zoo photo opportunity in Sochi before the Winter Olympics.
President Putin has a long-standing reputation for being preoccupied with public manliness– from shirtless horseback riding in the wilderness to hiring the ’90s R&B group Boyz II Men to sing in Moscow as an attempt to raise the city’s birth rate (if you know what he means). Putin’s image as a virile demi-god has been indispensable during his “election” campaigns and a trademark long before the Obama administration.
Nor has Putin been averse to using his animals to impose that image of himself. President George W. Bush, for example, reported that Putin once mocked his dog’s size relative to his own. In an interview with his daughter this year, the former President told of bringing his dog, a Scottish Terrier named Barney, to Moscow. “You call that a dog?” Putin allegedly scoffed, while showing President Bush his own large black dog, Koni. Koni also famously made an appearance to intimidate German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is alleged to have a fear of dogs.
Rogozin has not followed up his tweet with any elaboration, nor has he mentioned the fact that Bo and Sunny, the President’s two Portuguese Water Dogs, are large and black like Koni, and as a breed are believed to be more difficult to train than the legendarily docile Labrador. That is not to say that Putin does not own a difficult-to-train dog. In addition to Koni, Putin owns an Akita Inu named Yume, a present from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The White House has yet to comment on the animal morality theory Rogozin has proposed, though the President has expressed disappointment at Russia’s “Cold War mentality” in the past.