Now that Vladimir Putin has decided to get a bit closer to the American public with an op-ed in the The New York Times, it is time for the world to know all about his arm wrestling match with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. The Representative from California revealed this week that back in the 1990s, he got into a drunken arm wrestling match with the then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, apparently in order to settle who won the Cold War. Putin, along with other Russian officials, was visiting the U.S. on a trip when Rohrabacher suggested a game of touch football. A few of the Russians agreed, and our story begins.
"Come to find out later, that was Putin. I didn't know who he was then," Rohrabacher told KPCC in an interview on Thursday. "[Putin] did have a huge bodyguard, so that did sort of give us a little hint that he’s more important than just St. Petersburg," Rohrabacher added. Rohrabacher was with Scooter Libby and a bunch of other Republicans, but the details of the game aren't important. The interesting part comes at the bar, after the game was over:
We were having a little bit too much to drink, I guess. But anyways, we started arguing about who won the Cold War, etc. And so we decided to settle it like men do when they’ve had too much to drink in the pub. And so we got down to these arm wrestling matches. And I ended up being paired up with Putin. And he’s a little guy, but boy I tell you, he put me down in a millisecond. He is tough. He's just BING, you know. His muscles are just unbelievable...He’s a tough guy, and he’s supposed to be a tough guy. That’s what the Russian people want. But that’s no reason we shouldn’t try to work with him.
The "BING" we imagine, refers to his beefy muscles, visible in the Teddy Roosevelt-style (staged!) photos of the Russian leader doing tough rugged man things. Since he did not who he was tangling with, you can also assume that Roharbacher was unaware of Putin's extensive experience with judo, which is the time-honored art of knocking people down.
You can listen to Rohrabacher himself tell the story here:
(Photo: AP. h/t Washington Post)