In a few weeks, the world’s leading winter athletes will be gathering for the quadrennial Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. For the two weeks of this competition we will enjoy watching the accomplishments of individuals and teams in sports as varied as skiing, bobsledding, hockey, figure skating, and various other sports.
A lot of attention has been focused on these Olympics for two reasons with one of these being unjustified and the other being justified. The unjustified reason is Russia’s refusal to pander to the western world’s homophilia which it has refused to go along with and has enacted legislation seeking to impose restrictions on the advocacy of non-traditional sexual mores. The justifiable reason for paying attention to these Olympics and expressing concern about them is their geographic location and the security concerns surrounding this location.
Sochi is located on the Black Sea adjacent to the turbulent Caucasus Mountain region. Within this region is the rebellious province of Chechnya where Islamist fighters, allied with Al Qaida, have been fighting the Russian Government for numerous decades. The Russians have, it is true, committed serious human rights violations against the Chechens. However, the Chechen terrorists have also committed serious atrocities against Russians such as attacking Moscow theaters and subway stations and murdering school children in Beslan. Chechen militants are vowing to strike during the Winter Olympics which would be a domestic and international disaster for Russian leader Vladimir Putin not to mention the athletes and other innocent individuals who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is no wonder that the U.S. has offered to assist the Russians in their security measures which, so far, the Russians have refused. In addition, there have been news stories that some U.S. athletes have contracted with private security firms to evacuate them in the event of a security breakdown. U.S. forces are also said to be on standby in the event an evacuation occurs. This prudent advance planning also demonstrates the low level of confidence the U.S. has, and should have, in the quality of Russian security measures. We should also be concerned that despite having seven years to prepare for this event, corruption and other factors have kept hotels and other important facilities from being constructed on time.
The International Olympic Committee, because it includes such a wide variety of international members of varying ethical probity, has sometimes made poor decisions about where to hold Olympic events. In 1936, they held the Winter and Summer Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berlin, Germany during the rule of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. In 1972, the summer games were held in Munich, West Germany but were ruined by lax security measures which allowed Palestinean terrorists to infiltrate the Olympic Village and kill several Israeli athletes. In 1980, the summer games were held in Moscow and boycotted by the U.S. and other countries following the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan. 2008 saw the games held in China, which, despite being an increasingly important, economic and geopolitical power center, remains an egregious abuser of human rights. The 2018 Winter Olympic games will be held in South Korea. I have every confidence that the South Koreans will do a competent and thorough job of preparing for these games and conducting them successfully. However, I am not so confident that the bloodthirsty dictatorial regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will not attempt to spoil these games through terrorism or conventional military assault.
Readers should also be aware that Sochi is also close to the country of Georgia which was the victim of Russian aggression in 2008 as Putin and Moscow aided pro-Russian separatist forces seeking to merge with Russia. Other countries in this troubled region include Armenia, which despite being a Christian country, has close ties with Iran which is currently gloating over its success in preserving its nuclear weapons program against an incompetent Obama Administration, and Azerbaijian which is an oil rich country bordering on Armenia and the Caspian Sea. This area is also a big center for oil and natural gas supplies and transportation and is heavily influenced by the cross currents of Turkish geopolitical interests which have become less favorable for the west in recent years.
I hope and pray the Sochi Olympics go without terrorist attacks, but the International Olympic Committee should do more stringent geopolitical risk analysis before selecting Olympic venues and the U.S. Government should quit ideological grandstanding over Russian domestic social policy which the Obama Administration’s sensitive secularist group identity politics and victimology finds offensive.