Putin is an ass. Russia has made tons of enemies who physically surround it with its heavy-handed abuse of its relative power in the region.
There is serious concern that those enemies will succeed in penetrating Putin's vaunted "circle of iron" around the Olympics and launching some sort of spectacular attack.
I heard a reporter interviewed on NPR yesterday who said that if it weren't his job to cover Sochi, he would not be there. Some of the athletes are reluctant for their families to go there. Most just want to get in, compete, get out in one piece.
Contributing to this sense of impending doom has been the uptick in assorted terrorist attacks in the region. Clearly, Putin's enemies are itching to leave a nasty mark.
“I must admit it certainly wouldn’t have been my choice,” said Russia expert Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, who is currently in Moscow. “And I can’t help wondering if you got Putin thoroughly drunk whether he’d admit it might be a mistake too.”
IOC officials have long collaborated with plunderers, and treated human rights abuses as acceptable if it meant good commerce, regardless of the harm: In Beijing, dissidents were arrested and tortured for refusing to support the Games. But the IOC’s amoral stupidity and avarice may have finally have peaked in Sochi. Activists have been jailed; homeowners evicted without compensation; 25 construction workers have died at stadium sites; illegal dumps of toxic construction waste have ruined local drinking water and caused homes to sink; and Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister, alleges up to $30 billion has been stolen in preparing for the Games. Now we can add $3 billion in security costs to the price of hosting this festival of malevolence and greed.
It may well be that Putin can secure the area with 60,000 police and special troops, and a cyber-dome of electronic spying and drone patrols. But Sochi is undeniably an inviting target, and so are areas outside of the security zone that will be stripped of police. In Volgograd, a major rail hub en route to Sochi, bombers killed 34 people last month.
“First, they have to foot this ridiculous bill for the Games; second, in order to provide all those security personnel, they have to come from somewhere else; and third, it galvanizes the insurgency,” Galeotti said. “This is a chance to really take advantage of the international spotlight. Let’s face it: There are terrorist attacks every week in the North Caucasus. Now they can do something on a platform.”
So the staging of the Sochi Games has become a contest of wills between Putin and the insurgents, with innocents squarely in the crossfire. The IOC is wholly responsible for this: It should have denied Putin the internal prestige he craves, while depriving the insurgents of a major target, by removing the Games when it was still politically and logistically possible. Now they will have to hope Putin can avert a disaster and make the Games safe, “insofar as you can be safe holding an Olympics inside a country fighting a serious insurgency,” Galeotti said.
Edited by Spectacles, 23 January 2014 - 09:22 AM.