” ‘Liar.’ Regretted it as soon as I said it. Losing control like that, sounding off about the American Secretary of State over Syria – amateurish, childish. All those years of self-discipline, my lips becoming more bloodless with every step up the career ladder; and I’m still a big mouth boy to be kept out of the Pioneers?

“Mother, it cannot be.

” ‘President Obama didn’t get elected….to be nice to Russia’ – that’s me speaking; that’s how I talk. Sardonic, drier than the martini I don’t allow myself to drink. But wherever possible I am courteous, courtly, hospitable. Thus, draping a coat over Frau Merkel’s shoulders as if she were the most beautiful woman in the world as well as the most powerful.

“Is my hair too square? Do my thousand-dollar suits declare their luxury instead of partially disguising it. But who cares what those Little Islanders think?

“At the Peterhof on Friday evening, with all the world’s leaders in attendance, I was the chivalry of Imperial Russia and the intelligence of the KGB.

“Only I can represent my country in this way. Mother Russia needs her son Putin.”