Steven Seagal isn’t exactly the traditional choice for special US-Russia envoy. When Russian president Vladimir Putin first proposed him for the role in 2013, the Obama administration’s reaction was, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But what repelled president Obama could well work for president Donald Trump, for one, simple reason: Seagal is a celebrity.
True, the action star’s status has declined considerably since his ’90s heyday. But Seagal still has the weird sunglasses, slicked-back hair, and swagger associated with his former celebrity status. His self-important posturing is a language both Putin and Trump speak and, more importantly, respect.
Putin, for one, has often been described as an “action man” president. The Kremlin regularly publishes photos of him shirtless, and engaged in such adventurous activities as piloting a plane, roaming the Siberian wilderness with a hunting rifle, and using a crossbow to shoot darts at a grey whale. He has a coterie of celebrity friends, and his bare-chested photos are used to adorn both calendars and covers of celebrity magazines in Russia.
Seagal’s celebrity experience means he should be au fait with the Russian media. The local press reportedly hounded former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, a tenured political science professor at Stanford University.
Trump has also long shown a penchant for the celebrity sphere, and continues to engage with celebrities from the White House. One such interaction had Kim Kardashian visit the Oval Office to discuss the case of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving life in prison for a nonviolent crime. A week later, Trump granted Johnson clemency.
Putin and Trump are showmen, so it’s difficult to know what they really think, or indeed if they have calculated plans, for US-Russia relations. But, judging from their mutual praise, the two men have an amicable personal relationship. While Seagal may be lacking in political knowhow, he has the celebrity acumen to fit nicely into that inner circle. There’s already a long, documented history of Seagal’s bromance with Putin, with plenty of adorable photos. It’s not hard to picture Trump joining their crew.