Putin Once Annihilated a GOP Congressman in an Arm-Wrestling Contest

The stakes? Who won the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin swims while traveling in the mountains of the Siberian Tyva region (also referred to as Tuva), Russia, Aug. 3, 2009.
AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Sept. 13, 2013, 9:56 a.m.

Let this be a re­mind­er: Some­times, Con­gress can be really, really fun.

Rep. Dana Rohra­bach­er, R-Cal­if., told South­ern Cali­for­nia Pub­lic Ra­dio this week about the time he met Vladi­mir Putin dur­ing a vis­it from a Rus­si­an del­eg­a­tion in the early 1990s. The con­gress­man in­vited Putin, who was then the deputy may­or of St. Peters­burg, and two of his col­leagues to spend the week­end with him. The rest is pretty bril­liant his­tory:

About 1990, or ‘91, com­mun­ism has just fallen and it was no longer in ex­ist­ence, the So­viet Uni­on, in fact now it’s Rus­sia, and a group of young polit­ic­al lead­ers came to my of­fice and they wanted to meet me be­cause I’d been Re­agan’s speech writer. Well, I talked to them and I asked them, “Well, I by the way, I’m spend­ing the week­end here; any of you want to play some Amer­ic­an foot­ball with me and my bud­dies?” Three of them said, “Yeah, sure,” so …

In­clud­ing Putin?

Well, I come to find out later that was Putin; I didn’t know who he was then. He was the deputy may­or of St. Peters­burg, that’s all we knew. But he did have a HUGE body­guard, so that did sort of give a little hint that maybe he’s more im­port­ant than just St. Peters­burg.

So we went out and we played touch foot­ball, and uh, Scoot­er Libby was one of the play­ers and a bunch of my right-wing friends were there, and so we all went over to this pub af­ter­wards, the Ir­ish Times Pub …

Wait, wait—you skipped ahead. who won that game?

Well it wasn’t us versus them, they played on both teams, and you know we just picked up sides. But we all wound up go­ing to this Ir­ish Times Pub af­ter­wards. And we were hav­ing a little bit too much to drink, I guess, but any­way we all 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.

So we got down to these arm-wrest­ling matches. And, uh, I ended up be­ing paired off with Putin! And he’s, uh, he’s a little guy, but boy I’ll tell ya, he put me down in a mil­li­second. He is tough. It’s just BING you know, muscles are just un­be­liev­able. And so then his body­guard gets up and this buddy of mine says “Oh, I’ll take him” and my friend put his body­guard down.

It was good, so, at that mo­ment, you know, he’s a tough guy and he’s sup­posed to be a tough guy, and that’s what the Rus­si­an people want, but that’s no reas­on that we shouldn’t try to work with him.

We don’t have any photo evid­ence of the foot­ball or the arm wrest­ling, but this here pic­ture should provide plenty of fod­der for the ima­gin­a­tion:

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