Now it turns out that Putin isn’t the only unsavory head of state in Seagal’s social circle. On December 1, the Associated Press reported that Seagal had “received the royal treatment” during a recent visit to Serbia. While there, he’d been granted audiences by President Tomislav Nikolic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali.
And that wasn’t all. Seagal was also presented with the Karic Brothers Award, which is given to a half-dozen or so people a year at an annual Belgrade ceremony. The award was created by Bogoljub Karic, who, as the AP pointed out, “was given asylum in Russia after he fled Serbia when its previous government charged him with corruption and the embezzlement of millions of dollars in state funds.” The award’s stated purpose is “to stimulate and motivate all those who create and produce value that will result in more pleasant living conditions”; winners have included businessmen, artists, actors, journalists, diplomats, clergymen, and politician.
One of Seagal’s fellow 2015 laureates was Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of Kazakhstan, who, rather hilariously, was honored for “strengthening democracy and peace.” This, note well, for a “president” whose personal bank accounts were found to contain over a billion dollars fleeced from the Kazakh treasury; who pushed bills through the Kazakh Parliament granting him legal immunity and legalizing money laundering; who’s been repeatedly returned to office in elections universally considered to be total shams; and whose country, thanks largely to his thuggish, terroristic treatment of journalists, stands at #161 out of 180 nations on the World Press Freedom Index.
In short, these awards might fairly be described as a joke.
Upon accepting his award, which was described as a recognition of his “humanitarian work,” Seagal told the audience that he was “honored to follow many leaders who have received this award before me, such as Vladimir Putin.” (He also made the rather baffling remark that “the world’s 17 major Roman Emperors originate from this region, and that has to mean something.”)
But that was just the beginning. Seagal, who “used to overwhelm Russian and Serbian bad guys in Hollywood movies with his martial arts techniques,” was offered a job teaching Aikido, the Japanese martial art, to Serbian special police.
And in January it was reported that Seagal, after agreeing to set up a martial-arts school in Belgrade, had been granted Serbian citizenship. Seagal praised the country’s leaders and said “he feels like a Serb.” It was unclear exactly how aware Seagal was of the record of President Nikolic, who in 2007 proposed making Serbia part of a Russian superstate that would resist “the hegemony of America” and in 2012 denied that genocide had ever taken place in Srebenica. Of course, given Seagal’s enthusiasm for Putin, one can hardly imagine him balking at Nikolic’s comparatively amateur-level malevolence.