Ever wonder why Russian President Vladimir Putin seems obsessed with demonstrating how “manly” he is when photographers are around? A quick Google search reveals images of the leader riding horses through the desert without a shirt on, hunting in the woods — also without a shirt on — and performing other actions that are almost certainly staged.
Glenn Beck said on his television program Wednesday that the answer may go back to U.S. President Ronald Reagan and how Reagan’s decision not to wear a coat when greeting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1985 Geneva Summit helped topple the Soviet Union.
“At the time, Gorbachev was the new guy,” Beck explained. “He was the young kid. He was the guy that was getting all the world to say, ‘Look, he’s new. He’s cutting edge.’ And Reagan was the old man.”
Ken Adelman, the author of “Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War,” was Reagan’s director of the Agency for Arms Control and Disarmament at the time. He explained that when Gorbachev — who was twenty years younger than Reagan — arrived, he was bundled in a coat and a hat, and looked far older than his actual age.
But Reagan had arrived the night before and was well-rested, and when Gorbachev pulled up, Reagan refused to put on the coat his advisers were thrusting at him, despite the freezing weather. Instead, he bounded down the stars like a man half his age and greeted the leader as if he felt perfectly at home.
“Here was the photo-op, but not the one the Soviets were looking for,” Beck explained. “The older man now looked like the young man, helping the elderly Soviet premier up the stairs.”
“It was the first step in re-shaping the view of Reagan in the eyes of the Soviet public, and that would set the tone for this meeting and all the meetings to come,” Beck continued. “Reagan was the tough guy in this duo. He was the one with the street cred. He was the cowboy who said what he meant, and meant what he said.”
Beck said Putin’s “over-the-top shirtless pictures with tigers and bears and whales and everything else” are a poor imitation of Reagan, but he “learned his lesson” that your image on the world stage matters.
“Reagan wasn’t dubbed the great communicator for nothing,” Beck said. “He knew these summits with Gorbachev would be crucial to steering the international debate, especially in the Soviet Union. And here it was, live on Soviet TV, Reagan looking like the superior man and the younger man all the way.”
You can see footage from the meeting at the Geneva Summit in the clip below.
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