Dolph Lundgren, International Man of Tanks
The Swedish movie star, a.k.a. Ivan Drago, rolls around Belarus in armored vehicles
Let’s say you’re in charge of a company trying to sell a new Russian-style armored reconnaissance vehicle to potential foreign buyers. There may come a time when you will ask yourself — is it possible to get Swedish action movie star Dolph Lundgren to ride around in it?
It’s what we’d do.
The answer to that question is also yes, according to a recent report from the Belarusian Telegraph Agency. Lundgren rode along in a Caiman, a new Belarusian military vehicle, during a December trip to the country, where Lundgren was visiting the developer responsible for the game World of Tanks.
The State Defense Industries Committee of Belarus was quick to alert the world. “I like the armored vehicle that has been made here, in Belarus. It drives well and it definitely has a fine suspension,” Lundgren said, according to a state-owned media report.
He also rode around in a KV tank during a war reenactment at the Stalin Line Historical and Cultural Complex, which commemorates the fortifications which crisscrossed the USSR during World War II. The T-34 is, by the way, Lundgren’s favorite tank.
The Caiman — not to be mistaken for the BAE Caiman in service with the U.S. Marine Corps — is a seven-ton, amphibious and modified BRDM-2 with an independent, torsion bar suspension.
Its armament includes a 7.62-millimeter PKS medium machine gun or a 30-millimeter AGS grenade launcher. The Caiman can carry six soldiers including the crew. Befitting the vehicle’s scout role, it has a low profile.
Lundgren rolling around in a Belarusian recon vehicle — Belarus is a Russian military ally — invariably invites comparison to other action stars with their heydays in their ’80s and early ’90s who have found renewed popularity in the post-Soviet world. We’re talking about Steven Seagal — a ludicrous, narcissistic clown and personal friend of Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin — or Lundgren’s occasional co-star Jean-Claude Van Damme, once a birthday guest of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
But Lundgren takes a shy and considerably more cautious approach to politics, and his relationship with Russia and its government’s geopolitical allies are nuanced. For one, a recurring theme in interviews with Lundgren is his optimistic and generally apolitical outlook on the world.
In September 2016, he told The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato that Russia and the United States are not natural enemies, that they have a lot in common — like beating the Nazis in World War II — and that “slowly the world’s actually becoming a better place.”
He likes weapons and military hardware. In 2013, New York magazine asked him which dictator he would like to hang out with, and which activities he’d like to do. “Oh, Jesus — Putin, maybe,” Lundgren replied, disagreeing with the assertion that the Russian president is a dictator.
“Maybe, like, sniper rifles. Russian sniper rifles would be good. The ones that go right through the armor-plated vehicles. Those would be good. Yeah.”
Lundgren also has a respectable fan base in Russia and Belarus. This, the actor has said, is probably because he’s played many Russian characters over the years, such as Soviet super-boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It’s not for nothing that Rocky IV ends with Sylvester Stallone, American flag draped over his shoulders, crying for a peaceful world in front of the Politburo.
Lundgren’s popularity is reflected in the Russian movie market. 2012’s Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning — co-starred with Van Damme — grossed more than $600,000 in Russia and the CIS countries but only a miserable $5,460 in America. Which is a shame. The film is a surreal, action-horror classic which deserves better in the West.
He played a KGB man in his first role in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, co-starring with Grace Jones, his then-girlfriend.
In 1988, he went rogue as spetsnaz agent Nikolai Cherenko in Red Scorpion, and returned to play the character in 2005’s The Mechanik. In 2009, he took on the role of ex-KGB sleeper agent Edward Genn in Icarus.
And when Lundgren is not playing Russians, he’s saving them from terrorists. In 2009’s solidly-done Command Performance, which Lundgren directed and co-wrote, he rescues Russian Pres. Alexei Petrov — who just happens to look a lot like Putin — from hardliners bent on revenge for the failed 1991 coup d’etat.
Dolph Lundgren. A multi-disciplined and international man, cross-cultural bridge builder … and tank enthusiast.