Dear Vlad, from Stephen

Andrew MacDougall, ex of the PMO, imagines a letter from the PM to the Russian president

[Editors' note: In his column last week, Maclean's political editor Paul Wells suggested that Stephen Harper and other Western leader use mockery instead of grave concern in responding to Russian leader Vladimir Putin's expansionist adventures in Eastern Ukraine. Instead of treating him like the most powerful leader in the world, Wells said, treat Putin like a joke. One reader who took that suggestion to heart was Andrew MacDougall, Stephen Harper's former communications director. Here's how MacDougall imagines a no-holds-barred letter from Canada's prime minister to Russia's leader.]

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

All hail the munificent and illustrious Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!

I’m kidding, I don’t mean that. I just wanted to see what my bureaucrats’ recommended greeting looked like. You know, they’ve been trying to get me to suck up to you for years now. My officials were always of the opinion that you mattered in the world, and that if we weren’t nice to you, you wouldn’t help us on “key issues of geopolitical significance in multilateral fora.” Don’t worry, I have no idea what that means either.

Where they saw you standing tall, I knew it was because you wear those lifts in your shoes. Did you ever notice, by the way, how I like to stand up nice and tall whenever I grip and grin you at a Summit? You can ease up on the handshakes, by the way. I get it, you’re a big brute man.

Come to think of it, we haven’t really spoken much since last year, when I said that Russia had no business being in the G-8, and that it was really the G7+1 when it came to discussing security issues like Syria. By the way, guess who didn’t want me to say that? Your spies didn’t tell you that one was coming, did they? To put it in terms you’ll understand: Harper 1, Putin 0.

Remember how mad you got at dinner in Enniskillen in 2012? As David Cameron would say, you threw your toys out of the pram. It was almost as good as that time you called me a “Trotskyite” in Vladivostok. Or when you went on that 10-minute tirade over Pussy Riot. Remember when the interpreter couldn’t figure out the English for the word “gangbang” after you used it? Awkward.

Ah, Vladivostok, Russia’s “Pacific capital.” I loved how you spruced the place up: the sham university summit site with brown water, three mysterious smoke detectors in each room, and fixtures that fell out of the wall. Well, when you have to conscript thousands of North Koreans to finish the work you couldn’t manage, you end up getting what you pay for, right?

Come to think of it, the Pacific Fleet was also looking a little worse for wear. How long do you reckon before the Chinese just swoop in and take Siberia off your hands? That must keep you up at night. After all, the Chinese have the people, and the economic power. I mean, they just squeezed you on that recent gas deal. How would you explain the loss of your Eastern Empire to your subjects?

Right, you don’t have a functioning press, so you won’t have to. You’ll just tell them what you want, and they won’t know the difference. By the look of things, I’d say you’re about halfway to a proper hermit kingdom. You do have a ways to go on information suppression but, to be fair, the North Koreans never had the Internet.

You’re probably angry that I’m comparing you to North Korea. Don’t worry, Kim Jong Un might have more hair, and more sycophancy (for now), but you have better suits. But let’s be frank, being the king of the castle in Russia these days is more Chernenko than Peter the Great, right? It’s less Rolls Royce, more Lada. It’s like being valedictorian, but at summer school. Anyway, you get the point.

No wonder you’re acting up. Congratulations, you’re the talk of just about every world capital. All it took was $50 billion to your cronies in Sochi (how’d the Russian hockey teams do, by the way?), an invasion and annexation of Crimea, fuelling a guerrilla insurgency in Ukraine, and 298 dead innocents blown out of the sky because your man Strelkov got overexcited with the weapons you keep sending him.

When will it end? I know we’re a bit unfocused here in the West, and that red lines aren’t what they used to be, but we’re together now, and I can promise you that our NATO meeting next month will feature some very, very, very strong language.

Thanks for that food ban, by the way. You went for the jugular and nicked us with a paper cut. On our baby toe. Well played. If things get really bad, your man Jong Un can share his tree bark recipe book.

I don’t mean to be so negative. I do feel for you. Reading that Newsweek piece was terribly sad.

As the FIS have probably told you, I enjoy tickling the ivories at the end of the day. Anyway, I was listening to a little Elton John the other night – he’s gay, you’re probably not a fan –and I thought one of his songs had some good counsel for you.

I know the word “sorry” isn’t exactly in your vocabulary, so I made one small change. Have a listen, and have a think. We’re all here ready to have a serious conversation once you’ve said the hardest word.

Yours truly,

The Guy We Hope Won’t Be Here After Next Year
(The name my bureaucrats use for me, FYI)

 

Tsary Seems to be the Hardest Word.

What have I got to do to make you love me?
What have I got to do to make you care?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
And to wake to find that you’re not there

What do I do to make you want me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I say when it’s all over?
And tsary seems to be the hardest word

It’s sad, so sad
It’s a sad, sad situation
And it’s getting more and more absurd

It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That tsary seems to be the hardest word

It’s sad, so sad
It’s a sad, sad situation
And it’s getting more and more absurd

It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That tsary seems to be the hardest word

What do I do to make you love me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
What have I got to do?
What have I got to do?
When tsary seems to be the hardest word

Andrew MacDougall is a former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is now the Senior Executive Consultant at MSLGROUP London. Follow him @agmacdougall




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Dear Vlad, from Stephen

  1. My what a lot of clever mature people we’ve had in Ottawa in the last 8 years.

    Even the current word for the PMO isn’t unfocused….it’s unhinged.

    And to think we could have had a PM who spoke Russian instead of chav.

  2. I suspect Vlad would just tell Stephen “I’ll see you on the ice . .. Wait . . . You, the hockey-loving, hockey-book-writing, hockey-game-attending-subsidized-by-taxpayer Prime Minister of Canada CAN’T SKATE??? WTF???”

    Then he’d probably proceed to lift his right hand to his forehead, palm outward, with his thumb and forefinger extended, the forefinger pointing vertically upward.

  3. Whatever happened to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid).

    Harper looks over at Putin during a washroom break at a G8:

    “My caucus is bigger than your caucus”.

    (After all, history proves that many wars have been fought over the Caucasus.)

  4. Nice to see the calibre of work Senior Executive Consultant Macdougall provides for MSLGROUP.. has he quit his day job?

  5. Paul must call you his “Big Mac” right ?

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