Speed Reads

Last Night on Late Night

Stephen Colbert mocks 'The Vladman,' while Fiona Hill says Putin seriously isn't 'Superman'

Warner Bros. has pulled distribution of The Batman from Russian theaters in protest of Russia's Ukraine invasion. Wednesday's Late Show imagined the Kremlin making up for that loss by piecing together a substitute film starring Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Stephen Colbert had Fiona Hill, a Putin expert and Russia adviser to three presidents, on Wednesday's Late Show, and he began by asking what has surprised her the most about the war. "On the invasion, you know, sadly, what's been most surprising is that it's gone on for so long," she said. Most people expected a short fight, and "we think in part that the Russians might have initially been trying to minimize casualties." As for the quick, hard-hitting, unified Western response, "we were pretty surprised by all of this as well, and I'm sure that Putin and the Russians have been quite surprised, too," Hill said. "It's very surprising to see major oil and gas companies, for example, pulling out of Russia along with all kinds of other businesses. So it's not just the government response."

Hill described sitting next to Putin at a dinner and watching him not eat or drink anything and not say much. "The one thing that I noticed is he's short-sighted — hey, you know, he's not the Superman that we think of," she said. Colbert asked if she thinks Putin is scared of his oligarchs, and she said not "so much as the people in his inner circle" who don't have yachts or French mansions but do care about not losing in Ukraine. There's no obvious or acceptable off-ramp that would allow Putin to save face, Hill said. "I think honestly one of the few ways that we might be able to get to him is if, for example, President Xi [Jinping] and the Chinese actually expressed some kind of displeasure. But that seems a pretty long shot as well."

"Despite crippling financial sanctions and Russian dressing being pulled from the shelves of your local Kroger, the invasion of Ukraine continues," Colbert said in his monologue. "Russian forces have captured their first city and intensified their criminal attacks on the defenseless civilian population, but fierce Ukrainian resistance continues to deny the Kremlin the easy victory it had anticipated." On the other hand, Russian troops are short on food and fuel, suffering from low morale, and surrendering en masse, he said. "Evidently the Russian Marines slogan is 'Semper Byeeee!'"