There's an amusing line in Jonathan Landay's article on the Bush Administration's discovery that Vladimir Putin has no soul.
Bush and his aides "grossly misjudged Putin," considering him "a good guy and one of us," said Michael McFaul of Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
The former KGB officer created that illusion partly by appearing to share Bush's political and religious convictions, standard tradecraft employed by intelligence officers to recruit spies, he said.
"Putin . . . is a brilliant case officer," said Carlos Pasqual, a former senior State Department official now at The Brookings Institution, a center-left policy organization in Washington.
What many experts regard as the real Putin — a hard-line, derisive Russian nationalist — was on display Friday as he greeted visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates ahead of talks that failed to break the impasses over missile defense and other key security issues.
After keeping the U.S. officials waiting for 40 minutes, Putin mocked their mission in front of reporters and television cameras. [my emphasis]
The suggestion, of course, is that wily Vladimir fooled the poor unsuspecting Bush cronies by misrepresenting who he was.
It's a nice excuse, I guess. But IMO there is nothing that Putin is currently doing that isn't utterly consistent with who he was in 2001, when Bush looking into his soul. What has changed is not Putin's willingness to display his real personality. What has changed is the power dynamic in the relationship. In 2001, oil was cheap and Russia was weak. In later 2001, Putin recognized that the war on terror offered a remarkable opportunity to legitimize his Chechnya campaign, at least in some corners of the Western world. But as the Bush Administration tried to morph the war on terror into the "war to sustain our hegemony by dominating the Middle East" (at the expense of Russian relations with Iraq and the potential expense of Russian cooperation agreements on various issues with Iran), Russia no longer had an interest in playing along. Oh, and did I mention that Bush's Middle Eastern war contributed to record oil prices, which served as a springboard for Putin's resurgent authoritarianism?
So it wasn't so much that Putin hid his true nature. Rather, it's that the Bushies saw what they wanted to see, without bothering to inquire what was lurking beyond the view immediately in front of their face.