The world went bonkers last week when photos were smuggled out of the great Russian outback called Siberia showing Russian President Vladimir (Ras)Putin shirtless, flexing his bis, and tris, and pecs, and delts.

What did it mean, what did it mean, the pundits asked relentlessly?

The photos of him shirtless - OK, they were released, not smuggled out - were often matched with news coverage of Russian bombers, presumably carrying nuclear weapons, on flights near American and European air space. The Russians had stopped such flights more than a decade ago after the Soviet Union collapsed, but resumed them a couple of weeks ago.

Then there were the statements that the Russians are again going to be selling advanced munitions on the international market, and the outlandish claim that the land underneath the Arctic Ocean popularly known as the North Pole, is now Russian territory.

OK, so what is going on here? A renewed communist 'Surge' to help the Islamo-fascists in their war against the world? A behind-the-scenes alliance with China to become the dominant world superpowers, again spreading the communist philosophy, regardless of how many times it has failed?

I don't believe so, even though Russia and China did hold joint military exercises last week.

No, my choice in this quiz is none of the above. I believe the Russian president is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and needs to re-establish his Alpha-maleness. It also appears that something or someone recently said or did something that rubbed him the wrong way, and he is letting the world know he isn't happy about it.

The syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, commenting on this issue the other day, noted that it isn't likely (Ras)Putin is pushing for a return to communism, regardless of what is going on elsewhere in the world, because Russia would suffer for it, rather than profit.

Krauthammer maintains that our pal Vlad is a nationalist first and foremost, and he is doing what any strong leader of a once strong federation would be doing to keep his citizens on his side.

Good points.

So where was Vlad recently, and what might have happened to get him in a tizzy?

How about the G-8 summit in June? He was there with the leaders of the other major industrialized nations, the US, Great Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada, but did he get the respect he believes he deserves?

Maybe the French said something about Russian food, or the Italians insulted his sexuality. Maybe someone said or did something that they never even thought would be taken badly, since it wasn't intended that way, but was the final straw.

I mean, even a Russian president can have feelings, right? Don't I just sound like a leftist suburbanite mom though?

All kidding aside, we should remember this about RasPutin. He made it to the top of the secret police when the Soviet Union was still intact. After its collapse he made it to the top of the semi-democratic government that took the place of the communist system.

That tells me the man is smart, ruthless, strong, and most important, adaptable. I might bust his stones in this column, because I am an American and I can, but don't ever underestimate this guy or sell him short.

Maybe he can't bring us back to the brink of World War III, and I doubt that is his goal. But he still has a sizable store of ICBMs tipped with nuclear warheads, a workable Navy and submarine force, and even if his bomber fleet is aging, they can still get the job done if they get through our defenses. Which means he has to be taken seriously.

Which may be all that he wants. I wouldn't discount more complicated motives out of hand, but sometimes the most complicated of situations have the most basic of solutions. I say, start with the basics and see if somebody at the last economic summit stepped on RasPutin's toes and didn't say excuse me.

If we can figure that out, we can figure out what to do about it.

I have a suggestion - naturally.

Down in my basement I have a fairly complete gym. I have been a weightlifter since my early teens, and still work out regularly. My home gym is complete, but not elaborate.

It is more along the lines of the Eye-of-the-Tiger gym that was in one of the Rocky movies. I keep it that way on purpose. It has no fancy machines, no pulleys or levers or 'equivalent weight' selectors.

It has free weights, benches, a power rack, and some cardio equipment. In my gym, you lift weights.

That having been established, here is my offer. I will serve as a go-between, inviting both President Putin and President Bush to my house, and we will do a standard two-hour workout. Start with a cardio warm up, then chin-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups, then free weights.

We'll do a form of circuit training such as I learned in the Marines, so we hit all body parts, which means everyone will have an opportunity to show off their best lifts or exercises. I guarantee you, about mid-way into this workout, once the endorphins kick in, we'll all be talking easily, like old friends, and whatever is bothering Mr. Putin will come out.

When we're done there I have a few cords of wood out back that need cutting into stove-sized pieces. This would give Mr. Bush an opportunity to show off his well-known skills with the chain saw.

As an added benefit, we would have two important leaders of two important countries, doing physical labor, which tends to bring out the best both in terms of seeing your results, and building teamwork. The only condition is that RasPutin has to keep his shirt on. I have neighbors. They wouldn't be amused.

That's it. Nothing more. I think it would work. Could someone forward this to presidents Bush and RasPutin? Thanks, I believe it will go a long way.

Oh, and next time the media runs a photo of RasPutin topless, could someone send him a picture of Arnold - you know who I mean - and make the note that this is just a Governor in the US? That should put things in perspective.