Suddenly, the Russian president is looking like Vladimir-the-Not-So-Great.
Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his ambitions of empire, hoping to reverse the many humiliations his homeland has suffered since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter century ago. In this, he has taken strong inspiration from Alexander the Great, the young Greek king whose tireless military campaigns assembled one of the most extensive empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to Egypt into present-day Pakistan.
Who better than Putin to bring the muscular glory back to Moscow?
His nascent campaign was romping into eastern Ukraine, generating only grumbles in Europe and sanctions from the United States. Then Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down a short tank ride from the Russian border, and things instantly got far dicier for Putin's voracious cause.
Add all the required caveats here. We don't know this, we don't know that. But we do know this much: The world was shocked. The excuses sounded flimsy. The early signs all pointed to a missile launched by Putin's surrogates in Ukraine. And the Russian president, suddenly on the defensive, didn't quite know what to say.
Not so great, Vladimir. Not so great.
PUTIN'S ACTUAL NICKNAMES
4. The Grey Cardinal
ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Feel like riding the LIRR today -- just because you can? ... Eighteen years to the day? How could the TWA 800 commemorators not compare and contrast to Flight 17? ... Are the Eakins Road neighbors against anything that's tall -- or just cellphone antennas and new water towers? Isn't the current, 85-year-old Munsey Park water tower the same 165 feet as the newly proposed one? ... What exactly was the "erratic behavior" that got John Sheppard suspended from his studies at Cold Spring Harbor Lab? A few creepy posts on social media? Did you see he's now been charged with making "terroristic threats"? ... Do you love leaf blowers? Do you hate leaf blowers? Someone's always taking an online survey on something. For Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland, it's leaf blowers ... Is it really true that part-time summer crews can't be trusted to resod Smithtown's aging ballfields? The grass work can only be done by full-timers at jacked-up overtime rates? ... Why were Chinelle Latoya Browne's severed body parts dumped all over LI? Did her killer(s) really think that cops wouldn't connect the pieces? ... Huntington's Chris Algieri, Shirley's Cletus Seldin -- with hardly anyone noticing, is LI becoming a hotbed of rising young welterweight boxers? ... How will CVS become a better neighbor on Jericho Turnpike? Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss says he's heard the promises -- "I'm not buying it." ... Should someone explain to pilot Frank Fierro the difference between a highway and a runway? Once could be an accident -- but twice? Frank, it's Sunrise Highway!
THE NEWS IN SONG: There's a place in the sun for all that you've done: DeVotchKa's "How It Ends," tinyurl.com/devoend
LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK: LIRR NEGOTIATORS
We'd certainly have blamed them if the results had been different. But the trains are still running -- and they will be. So praise where it's due: With a little shove from Andrew Cuomo, negotiators from the MTA and the train workers' union managed to reach a contract three short days before America's busiest commute railroad ground to ugly halt. What can you say? Whew! Thank you! And please don't wait so close to the deadline next time!
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