- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The rising power of Russia’s Vladimir Putin was in stark display this week as he commanded an audience with Pope Francis — and then forced the pontiff to wait for almost an hour for the face-to-face meeting.

The pope waited on Mr. Putin to show for 40 minutes, Religion News Service reported. And Bloomberg put the wait-time even higher, at 50 minutes.

The meeting this week was billed as a historic summit between the two power-players, and went forth behind closed doors, for about 35 minutes. Both Mr. Putin and the pope are in agreement about the need to bring a diplomatic wrap to the years-long conflict in Syria.

The meeting underscored Mr. Putin’s rising clout in the world — and many pundits noted the absence of President Obama in such a powwow. 

The Vatican and Russia’s government have weathered some frosty relations in the past, with the Kremlin complaining that the Church intrudes on political affairs. But Mr. Putin and the present pope seemed poised to chip away some of that ice. The meeting, described by Vatican officials as “constructive” and “cordial,” nonetheless did not lead to an announcement of further planned talks.

Mr. Putin, meanwhile, used the occasion to wield a heavy figurative fist. He arrived in Italy for a two-day visit with five private jets, 50 armed vehicles and an impressive entourage of government figures, including 11 key ministers, Italian media reported.

On top of that, he kept the Church head waiting for a substantial amount of time – longer even than his reputed average.

Bloomberg reported Mr. Putin usually makes visitors wait about 30 minutes. That’s what he did to South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye, raising the hackles of many in the Asian community who saw the wait-time as a blatant show of disrespect. The Queen of England, meanwhile, had to wait 14 minutes. The former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko ,was forced to suffer an uncharacteristically brutal wait-time of three hours to see Mr. Putin, though, Bloomberg reported.

Moreover, when Mr. Putin was actually on time for a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 2003, that actually made the headlines the next day: President Putin on time for meeting, screamed Russian press, Bloomberg reported.

Mr. Putin, in his defense, says he’s always been late for engagements, even as a child. But some psychologists see the waiting game he plays a show of power and force.

“What is your payoff for the behavior? You wouldn’t continue unless you were getting some reward for it,” celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw wrote, in a column about habitually late people, Bloomberg reported. “Understand that procrastination or being late is a way of manipulating and controlling a situation at the expense of others. When everything is about you because everyone has to wait on you, you are unfairly controlling the situation while assuming that others should and will wait on you. It’s an arrogant behavior.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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