On the eve of the Sochi Olympics, I was invited to Moscow for a little 1-on-1 time with the Russian president himself, Vladimir Putin. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised to be given such an opportunity, considering my relationship with Russia began and ended with the Soviet campaign in Red Alert II. Still, I hear Putin requested me personally for my honest reputation and complete lack of ability to create cockamamie stories, so what follows is a full, unedited transcript of my time with Russia’s most powerful man.
Me: Mr. Putin, thanks for giving me this opportunity to have a chat. You must be a busy man right now.
Putin: It’s no trouble at all, actually. Since I passed my anti-gay legislation months ago, I’ve had plenty of free time. After all, I leave the everyday persecution to the police.
Me: Uh, well, I meant about the Winter Games in Sochi. It seems every day there’s a new problem to fix.
Putin: I take it you’re talking about the lack of adequate sewerage? Or maybe the cramped living conditions in the athlete’s village? Or the concerns that we are monitoring the international press? Or the packs of stray dogs roaming the city? Or maybe the unfinished construction, even though we’re 30 billion dollars over budget?
Me: Well, yeah. Any of that stuff really.
Putin: Hah! This is nothing! Back in 1999 I was trying to rig elections in seven regions at once! Do you know how hard it is to insert the entire upper echelon of the KGB into a supposedly post-Soviet state? Dealing with Mafiya bosses is not easy.
Me: So you’re not worried this attempt to legitimise your regime on the world stage will fail?
Putin: Failure is not a concern. We are committed to putting our best foot forward for a global audience and showing them what Russia is all about.
Me: And what is Russia all about, exactly?
Putin: Well, the Russian people have a long history of suffering under broken infrastructure and a sub-par quality of life while the government continues to serve the agenda of a few cronies at the top of the pyramid. To represent any other experience would be to lie about the Russian way. We are proud of what we have accomplished, in Sochi and beyond.
Me: Do you think you speak for all Russians when you say that?
Putin: I am all Russians.
Me: Are you sure about that? Your country has experienced some pretty high-profile free-speech controversies in the past few years.
Putin: Don’t be so naive, free speech only gets in the way of any real progress. You think My Kitchen Rules would be half as good if Manu’s responses weren’t scripted? I–
Me: Sorry to interrupt, but you’re telling me you’re a fan of My Kitchen Rules? Do you even get that in Russia?
Putin: Oh hell yeah. It’s my favourite show after Chechnya’s Next Top Terrorist – I love a bit of goofy competition. And no, but I get Kim Jong-Un to stream it to me off his satellite feed via slingbox.
Me: I guess Dennis Rodman was right, he really is a top guy. Anyway, you were saying?
Putin: Well, I know what the Russian people want already, anyone who has other ideas is just trying to be a hipster.
Me: Uh huh, and what is it the Russian people want exactly?
Putin: What the Russian people want is a country that is economically sound and politically united – oh, and a gold in the men’s hockey. I don’t think anyone could argue I haven’t achieved the first two, and trust me, the latter is in the bag.
Me: How so?
Putin: You think it’s a coincidence Alexander Ovechkin is having his best season in years when his fiancee – part-time tennis player and full-time hot chick Maria Kirilenko – has been ‘injured’ since October?
Me: Are you saying you’re behind Ms. Kirilenko’s absence from the Australian Open?
Putin: Let’s just say she’s on a humanitarian mission to Syria, the length of which is dependent on Alexander’s performance on the ice.
Me: Well, I think that’s about all I need to know, unless there’s anything else you’d care to mention.
Putin: Well, I was hoping you could help me too.
Me: Uh, sure.
Putin: Do you know where I can find Lolo Jones? I’d like her to give her a ride on my bobsled, if you know what I mean.
Me: Unfortunately, I do. And no I don’t, sorry.
Putin: Ah, that’s disappointing, but not to worry – I’ve always got my portrait of me on a horse. Thanks anyway.
Me: Yeah, I was right before – that was something I definitely didn’t need to know. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll show myself out.