Sochi 2014: US vs. Russia
Today’s news that the Russian government is hunting for four Dagestani terrorists is accompanied by the seemingly casual announcement that the U.S. is so worried about terrorist attacks during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort located on the other side of the Caucasus Mountains from Dagestan, that it has poised warships in the Black Sea ready to evacuate victims.
As world opinion appears to be shifting from half a century of deference to Washington to a sometimes grudging preference for Russia’s international positions, the Obama administration will increasingly engage in anti-Russian propaganda and mischief as the February games approach. This afternoon, MSNBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel told Andrea Mitchell from Moscow that the U.S. finds Russian cooperation on security insufficient, and the Voice of America website complained that Washington is not getting all the information it needs to protect its athletes in the Games.
Although the Russian President declares that his country is prepared for any eventuality, fear is likely to inhibit American travel to the other side of the world in the middle of winter. Does anyone know whether the U.S. had ships poised off the British Coast during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, even though Britain had suffered terrorist attacks in the preceding years?
Perhaps not unrelated to Russia’s chance to show it can compete with the West in organizing a major international event, violent anti-government demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital Kiev have been on-going since the country’s president decided to forego an agreement with the European Union last November. Kiev is 860 miles from Sochi (a relatively small distance as Russian geography goes), and today, Washington accused the Ukrainian government of using excessive force, notwithstanding that dozens of policemen have been injured by club-wielding demonstrators. Their leader is world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, whose far-right party, called strike, blow or punch, is allied with the Ukrainian neo-Nazi party Svoboda. Rumors that neo-Nazis from Eastern Ukraine have been the driving force in the months’ long uprising have been ignored by the Western media and no wonder: As with Washing-ton’s embarassing support of Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, an Assistant Secretary of State was photographed giving the Ukrainian demonstrators cookies.
Recently, there were two bombings in Volgograd, a major rail hub six hundred miles northeast of Sochi, accompanied by specific threats against the games on the part of a militant Sunni group that is fighting for Dagestani independence. (The Caucasus Muslim region of Dagestan was the home of the Boston bombers…) One of the men seemed to be referring to potential American spectators when he said: “We’ve prepared a present for you and all tourists who come over.”
Alfred McCoy’s recent analysis of the fact that the national security state is not about national security, but about the blackmailing of national and foreign leaders in order to keep them in line, couldn’t be more apropos. The policy began with the conquest of the Philippines more than a hundred years ago and was perfected by J. Edgar Hoover, who founded the FBI in 1935 and led it until his death in 1972, accumulating embarrassing files even on the country’s presidents.
In the Philippines, as elsewhere, the U.S. resorted to all sorts of dirty tricks to get its way. But whatever happens in Sochi next month, it is unlikely to fundamentally alter the current direction of the arrow of time, away from American world leadership and toward a bigger role for Russia.