Putin Before He Retreated to the Far End of the Table by Maureen Orth (Colombia)

Putin’s Character Was Clear Long Before He Retreated to the Far End of the Table

By Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964-66)
Vanity Fair Magazine March 4, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Moscow, Russia on February 22, 2022

Today, the world sees Vladimir Putin from a distance, isolated at the end of a very long table. When I first met him, in September 2000, he was at a very different table, in a private room at New York’s 21 Club, at a dinner hosted by Tom Brokaw for 20 or so media luminaries. Brokaw had interviewed the recently elected Russian president for NBC a few months earlier. I was invited because I had just closed a lengthy profile of Putin for Vanity Fair, and also because my late husband, Tim Russert, was the anchor of NBC’s Meet the Press.


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  • Maureen,
    When I read any of your writings,
    I learn so much. This article takes me to a new level!
    Meg Goffredo
    Escondido, CA
    parent RPCV

  • Excellent article. Leave it to a Peace Corps Volunteer to delve into the psyche of this madman. Thanks for your in-depth explanation.

  • Across the wounded world this most pithy post reached me in Japan and humbled me, my own modest contributions here, with its erudition and astute look down a dying superpower’s mad tyrant’s power play gone so egregiously awry. This platform continues to hold me in awe … with each trenchant post … after post. Arigato, Maureen!!! Eric Madeen/Yokohama wwwericmadeen.com

  • Thanks for your enlightened article. I learned alot about this poor excuse of a man. Keep telling the world .

  • Glad to see you still have the ability to see things others may miss…and a way to convey them. I tried getting VF to cover the 1989 San Diego Arts Festival which featured the reunification of the Faberge’ Eggs. You could have covered the negotiations and seen how close it came to not happening in a meeting with Malcolm Forbes. Be well.

    Doug Byrns
    RPCV Venezuela 65-67

    • Hi Doug: Thanks for reading and that must have been just before I joined VF!! What are you doing now?

  • Maureen
    I also was in Medellin 1964-66 teaching in service uncertified high school math or science teachers through the University of Antioquia. We were a subgroup of four with the English teacher training ILCA program. I do not remember meeting you.
    Thank you for your insights. I enjoyed your article.

    Claude Case RPCV Colombia 1964-66

  • Thanks for the excellent article, Maureen. Having served in the mid-1990s in the Peace Corps in Russia, I witnessed the “shock therapy” you describe, which served to wipe out savings and pensions and collapse the ruble. Add to that the “privatization on steroids” which eliminated Russians’ safety net of employment and housing, and an increasing frustration with Yeltsin. Putin promised economic stability and security, and when he was appointed Prime Minister and then elected President, it was welcoming relief for probably a majority of Russians.

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