I Don’t Love Rov

Greg Yudin
August 12, 2015

Regarding Lavrov’s “spontaneous outburst.”

If you walk along the Arbat in Moscow and go into the souvenir shops, you can find out what new things the Kremlin’s spin doctors have come up with to promote Russia abroad. For Russians, there are t-shirts bearing images of Putin. And for the tourists there are two t-shirts featuring Lavrov. On one, he says [to the then-British foreign] minister David Miliband, “Who are you to fucking lecture me?” The other shows him smoking a cigarette and bears the inscription, “I Love Rov.”

Basically, they want to turn Lavrov into a rebel and romantic hooligan, a new Chavez. The calculation is clear: much of the world is objectively weary of Euro-American global hegemony (and Europeans and Americans are almost more tired of it than anyone else). So here comes Russia, as represented by Lavrov, and naughtily tells the adults that we don’t need your lectures and basically you should leave us alone. But back of this “Who are you to tell me?” lurks something very familiar, and it’s not Pink Floyd. It’s like when you approach a tipsy lout who has taken a swing at his wife, and he replies, “What the fuck you telling what to do?” Or when a woman asks a guy in the subway to give up his seat for her, and he says, “Who the heck are you?” Or when the big boss is listening to a report and sighs in such a way that everyone in the rooms hears him saying, “Fucking morons.”

This is not the behavior of a rebel, but of a common thug, who differs from the rebel in the sense that equality is a valuable thing in itself to the rebel. Not only does he not let anyone else tell him what to do, but he also doesn’t tell his neighbor how to live. And, by the way, he doesn’t take pieces of his land when the neighbor isn’t looking. But the thug could give a hoot about freedom and equality. He needs to muscle in on and put the squeeze on others. His rebellion ends right at the moment when he gets what he has coming.

Russia is persistently building an image as a global goon. It is doing this with a diplomat who believes that respecting one’s opponent is a weakness. Goons may be feared, but no one likes them. So these people are taking the risk of ruining my country’s image for a long time to come. This is already noticeable to those who have dealings with foreign partners.

Incidentally, I could not resist and asked a seller whether foreigners buy the Lavrov t-shirts. Not particularly, he said. Most of the buyers are Russians and they buy the Putin t-shirts.

“But that guy,” he said, “who the fuck wants him?”