There’s a reason why Putin takes the pictures that we turn in memes here in America.

You have probably seen the odd, and often shirtless, photo-ops staged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. While most world leaders content themselves with appearing at sober state functions or occasional political rally, Putin’s official photocalls suggest a rich, Walter-Mitty-esque fantasy life. But even though we may think these photos are just Putin stroking his wild ego, there is actually a very rational political strategy behind them.