The Kremlin has released a video showing Russian President Vladimir Putin introducing his dog Yume to Japanese journalists before an interview.
Yume is an Akita dog who was gifted to President Putin by Japan four years ago as thanks for Russia’s help following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In the video Putin shows impressive control of Yume, who belongs to a breed notorious for its strong personality, its suspicion of strangers, its devotion to its family, and its skill as a guard dog. In certain countries Akitas are considered dangerous dogs. As Putin says it is a “no-nonsense” sort of dog.
Putin is known to like dogs, and he is known to have at least one other dog: Buffy, who is a Bulgarian Karakachan dog gifted to him in 2010 by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov of Bulgaria. Here is a picture of Putin with Yume and Buffy
Putin’s long time favourite dog was Konni, a Labrador gifted him in 2000 by Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoigu (who is now Russia’s Defence Minister), who died in 2014 aged 15 years.
Konni is the subject of a notorious incident in 2007 when she wandered into a room at the Presidential residence in Sochi whilst Putin was having a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is uncomfortable in the presence of dogs.
A regular story told by the Western media about Putin is that he deliberately had Konnie released into the room in order to frighten Merkel and put her at a disadvantage in negotiations.
Putin has insisted that this story is complete nonsense, and that he was unaware before the meeting of Merkel’s feelings about dogs. He is known to have apologised to Merkel after he found out about it.
Following that incident Putin now doubtless takes precautions to ensure his visitors have no negative feelings towards dogs before he introduces Yume and Buffy to them, as apparently he does often.
In this instance introducing Yume to the Japanese journalists serves a diplomatic purpose, and was undoubtedly carefully planned and possibly even rehearsed in advance.
With Japan and Russia undertaking a rapprochement, and with Putin about to visit Japan, it is in Putin’s and Russia’s interest to emphasise Putin’s liking and interest in Japan, and his interest in Japanese culture. For this reason a large part of Putin’s interview with the journalists was devoted to his interest in judo, of which he was an acknowledged master.
Introducing Yume to the journalists ensures that television pictures of Putin with his Japanese dog (belonging to a breed which is a source of great pride in Japan) are broadcast into every Japanese living room, showing Putin to the Japanese people in the best possible light as both very human and as someone with a strong personal connection to Japan.
It is exceptionally clever diplomacy of the sort that no Western leader today either practices or understands, and which shows why Putin has become such a dominant figure in world politics today.