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Putin, Russian subs flex muscles in Siberia and off U.S. East Coast

August 6, 2009 |  2:54 pm

Putin Russia, the great bear that was tamed by the Gipper a couple of decades ago, is putting her formidable weaponry on display again -- and we're not talking about two of its nuclear-powered submarines patrolling just off the U.S.'s Eastern Seaboard.

Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president, KGB agent and all-around action man, has again been pictured showing his guns, and sculpted chest, this time while vacationing in the remote  region of Tuva, in southern Siberia. The last time he was pictured bare-chested, and bare-knuckle wrestling a grizzly -- OK, we're joking about the grizzly -- it sent his countrymen into rapture

At that time, former President George W. Bush could also be seen cutting down trees and acting manly around his Texas ranch (although  Mexican President Vicente Fox subsequently revealed W. may have an abiding fear of horses).  Now, we merely have President Obama running and gunning on the basketball court.

Described as looking Indiana Jones-esque as he rafts river rapids and camps overnight on the frigid tundra, Putin even attached a tracking device to a beluga whale before releasing it back into the Pacific, and also reportedly dove in a submarine to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, Lake Baykal. But we speculate he might have been secretly communicating with the somewhat scary subs positioned in international waters about 200 miles off the U.S., according to Defense Department officials.

The Defense Department, while admitting it is tracking the submarines, has refused to speculate on their intent, although it has stated that they are not seen as a threat. Such shows of naval strength were common in the Cold War, with the U.S. and Russia often positioning subs in strategically important spots around the globe and near to each other's coastlines, although the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 cramped the Russians' ability to patrol the seas as a global superpower.

Putin, meanwhile, this weekend celebrates 10 years since he took up his first official position in the Kremlin.  We imagine he's done some serious strong-arming and chest-thumping  since he was appointed vice prime minister in 1999 -- and thereafter went on to two terms as president -- but perhaps none more potent than this pose, which shows him helping to track a Siberian tiger

But getting back to those submarines, for those who remember the '60s, they bring to mind a movie that starred Alan Arkin as a Russian submarine commander who met up with Brian Keith and Jonathan Winters, the befuddled lawmen in a New England town. The good news: That had a happy ending.

-- Craig Howie

Photo: Getty Images