David Calling

Putin Flexes

Every summer Vladimir Putin, the Dracula figure now in charge of Russia, likes to strip down to his trunks and invite the world to admire his bulging pectorals. In the same spirit of showing off, he also likes to go shooting — whether bears or Georgians. Newspapers are again carrying their seasonal photographs of Putin in physical mode. And in case anyone fails to pay due tribute to his power, the Russian navy is doing its duty by sending two nuclear-powered attack submarines of the Akula class to the eastern coast of the United States, some 200 miles out in international waters.
Reporting this fact, the New York Times quotes a Defense official saying that it has been fifteen years since the Russians have seen fit to take such a step — in plain words, it’s back to the Cold War.  One of the submarines even headed off to Cuba.
Perhaps Putin thinks he’s set to run rings round Obama. Perhaps the test of Obama that Joe Biden forecast during the electoral campaign is getting under way. The Times speculated alternatively that the submarines might be a cover for the failure of a test-firing on July 15 of the Bulova long-range missile. Dictators like to start wars in August, and there’s yet another possibility that the Russians are distracting us from keeping a close watch on the way they are suddenly stepping up their bullying of Georgia. All in his own locker-room idiom, Putin has said that the Georgian president, Saakashvili, ought to be hanged in a particularly degrading manner, and maybe those bulging pectorals are meant to indicate that he’s the one to do this job.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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