News & Opinion | December 16, 2017 5:00 am

Why is Steven Seagal So Close With Eastern European Authoritarians?

Seagal has become a bizarre and controversial celebrity diplomat.

How Steven Seagal Became Russian
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with U.S. actor Steven Seagal after presenting a Russian passport to him during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on November 25, 2016 (Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)

The thing you’ve probably most recently seen Steven Seagal doing is not practicing martial arts but palling around with Vladimir Putin. A new Deadspin investigation courtesy of author Karim Zidan sheds light upon Seagal’s friendship with fellow-martial artist Vladimir Putin, which began in 2003 and has since blossomed into a mutually-beneficial propaganda campaign. Putin has had Seagal accompany him to the relaunch of a Soviet-era physical training program, and recommended Seagal be named an “honorary consul” to a stunned President Obama. Over the past five years, Seagal has not only participated in a US congressional delegation’s trip to Russia, but also visited three other authoritarian heads of state in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Belarus. All four leaders Seagal has befriended are known human rights violators. Last month, Seagal was in the news for having allegedly sexually harassed multiple women during his time in Hollywood. Deadspin tells the strange tale of how Seagal volunteered himself for a variety of post-Soviet propaganda machines.