Do you mind if I call you Vlad? You probably do. Let's not dwell on it — I know 56 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992 (64% of whom were murdered), so I don't want to start off on the wrong foot.
Things used to be better between us, didn't they? You would do your own thing and Americans would mostly ignore you, unless you happened to publicize some shirtless photos, in which case we'd click through all of them like a Facebook friend's vacation album.
Sure, maybe we overlooked a few things. Police brutality was rampant. The Economist wrote in 2010 that police would "shoot, beat and torture civilians, confiscate businesses and take hostages. They are feared and distrusted by two-thirds of the country." We watched the Sochi Olympics in February, albeit uncomfortably as we learned about your anti-gay laws and rampant Olympics corruption.
After Sochi, things fell apart. You invaded Crimea, triggering the region's secession vote from Ukraine that 100 UN members declared invalid. You may have supplied the weapons that destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board. You definitely stole some dolphins.
Now, you're filling the void of America's nemesis on the world stage, a role your country hadn't really played for a long time. You may be walking out of a major arms-control treaty from 1987 after testing missiles that aren't allowed under the agreement.
I want to say that we should go back to the way things were, back when videos of you fishing and doing karate were a "MUST WATCH." But the truth is, things were bad back then too — we just didn't notice.
That hasn't stopped some Americans from holding on to their visions of you, shirtless or otherwise. There's the Americans For Putin Facebook group, the business leaders and other apologists who gather for parties at your embassy in Washington D.C., the conservative Christians who love (and in some cases helped create) your anti-gay laws. There are the folks who hate President Barack Obama so much that they praise any foe in comparison.
The Crimea invasion and the MH17 disaster may be your most recent bad publicity, but it's also hard to forget the time you said you "aren't going after anyone" after declaring that Russia must "cleanse" itself of homosexuality, or your treatment of Pussy Riot and other activists, or any of your other abuses of power. We treated you as more cartoonish than evil, though, which helped us laugh rather than take notice of the kind of things you actually did. (And you're not the only one.) Despite some of our crazier compatriots, most of us have wised up now. We never should have chuckled at your power-hungry schtick, and hopefully we never will again.
Sorry Vlad — we may have turned a blind eye before, but that time has passed. We're over it. Now put your shirt back on. That's not going to work this time.