Putin is 'making himself look weak' says body language expert
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Dr Fiona Hill is one of the world’s top experts on Russian politics and history. Having worked as an adviser for Presidents George W. Bush and later Donald Trump, she has long been tasked with advising leaders on how to approach Russia and Putin. Speaking on the latest episode of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Dr Hill discussed her meeting with the Russian President, revealing some strange truths about the man behind the title. The academic spoke of Putin’s persona and appearance, and how she learned the real reason she was allocated to sit next to him in talks between Washington and Moscow. She said: “At the time I was actually working for the US Government…I sat next to [Putin] and I thought ‘why am I seated next to him?’
“Was it because they thought I was like M [Judi Dench’s character in James Bond]? I was kind of channelling my inner fantasies.
“Then I thought ‘am I the least likely person to stab him with a fork?’
“Turns out it was nothing of the sort. I was later told by the person sitting on the other side of him, one of his press people, that it was because I am a ‘nondescript woman’.
“‘Neither too old or too young, you are not fancily dressed. You’ve got no cleavage. You are just kind of there’.”
Dr Hill spoke of how she was so close to Putin, that she could have touched him.
She said: “If I’d have reached out my hand ever so slightly I would have touched him. He had a finely tailored suit, a little vein pulsated on the side of his face.
“I noticed right away he, like the rest of us, could really have done with glasses because he had these giant cards about who was who and what he should say.”
She also noticed other strange things about Putin, saying that his whole appearance was something of a “performance”.
Dr Hill said: “I noticed he didn’t eat anything. I saw the watch on his wrist, very expensive.
“This sounds really bizarre, but I could smell that he was freshly laundered. It was almost like he’d stepped out of some sort of special preparatory bath into the moment.
“I just thought ‘every element of this is staged. This is a performance.'”
Asked if she spoke directly with Putin, Dr Hill replied: “Not really, no, he is not much of a conversationalist. At the end of it, he stood up and said ‘all ze best’.”
Having studied Russia since university, Dr Hill has been one of the go-to experts in the wake of Putin sending troops into Ukraine.
She has said she believes we are already in a third world war, even if we don’t know it yet, also warning that Putin would use his nuclear weapons if necessary.
Speaking to Politico earlier this year, she said: “Sadly, we are treading back through old historical patterns that we said that we would never permit to happen again.”
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“Ukraine has become the front line in a struggle, not just between democracies and autocracies but in a struggle for maintaining a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force.
“Every country in the world should be paying close attention to this.”
On nuclear weapons, she added: “Every time you think, ’No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would.
“And he wants us to know that, of course. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared…. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we’re going to do to head them off.”
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