Vladimir Putin wanted to bring the Olympics to Russia, and he wanted them to take place in his favorite Black Sea resort town, Sochi, even though it is not a locale that sees much, if any, snow and is situated dangerously close to a region roiling with rebels and terrorists who hate Putin.
Snow will not be a problem. Enough white stuff can be manufactured to cover a ski slope, if need be. But keeping terrorists from blowing up the Olympics is a bit more difficult.
A new video released by radical Islamist separatists in Russia’s Dagestan region promises that attacks are coming. And even though every soldier and security agent in Putin’s service seems to be lining up to create a "ring of steel" around the Games, it appears would-be killers may have slipped through. There have been sightings of at least one so-called white widow suicide bomber in the center of Sochi. The woman is one of several female suspects whose husbands have been killed in the fight against Moscow’s rule and now hope to get revenge by blowing themselves up in the middle of Putin’s party.
President Obama and American security officials have offered to help the Russian authorities, and two U.S. warships, along with transport aircraft, will be stationed nearby. But the Russians insist they have it handled. This is Putin’s big show, and the Russians are way too proud to accept help from their greatest rival.
The Olympics are tainted in many ways – most of all by gross commercialization. Since the modern Games began in 1896 with lofty hopes, they have not contributed much to peace in the world. In fact, the decades since have brought carnage on an industrial scale in two world wars and many smaller ones. Still, every two years they deliver wonderful stories of human triumph and resilience and give us the pleasant illusion that perhaps one day we may all finally learn to get along.
It would be tragic if the Olympics were disrupted and defiled by the sick terrorist pathology that runs wild in the world, but that is the permanently hovering shadow of our era. And when the Games become the plaything of an iron-fisted authoritarian like Vladimir Putin, it makes them an irresistible target.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times