Just skimmed “Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Real Game of War and Peace,” Andrew L. Peek, The Fiscal Times, February 11, 2014.
Not only the columnist fails to add any value, but his writings are ridden with factual mistakes. Perhaps, he has been hoping that not too many people would notuice, given that the Fiscal Times' site ranks 14,223 in the world and 4,664 in the U.S., according to Alexa.
See selected points below with my comments in Italics.
- The real security threat to Russia is Russia itself as evidenced by its history. About 300 miles to the east of the Games is Chechnya, where Russia fought two brutal wars over the past twenty years. During that time, Chechens have been responsible for some of the most barbaric terrorism since 9/11. Over a hundred dead in a Moscow theater attack in 2002, hundreds more children at a school in 2004, and dozens from train bombings in 2009 and 2010. It is the ethnic Ingush terrorists, not Chechens, who formed the bulk of the group that raided the Beslan school. The Ingushs were also responsible for at least some of the railway train bombing, including the 2010 Nevsky Express bombing, while it was natives of Dagestan who blew themselves up in Moscow subway trains in 2010.
- It’s a violent place. In 1944, after the Chechens’ alleged collaboration with the Germans, Stalin deported them – every man, woman, and child, in every village – to Central Asia and Siberia. Over 400,000 Chechens and their Ingush neighbors left on boxcars and were replaced by Russians. Some came back in 1957. Not some, but most returned.
- More recently, in 2008, Russia started the first inter-European war since Hitler with Georgia, which technically lies about 20 miles east from Sochi. Did Russia really star the war?
- The 09.30.09 report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IIFFMCG), established by EU Council of Ministers stated: “The shelling of Tskhinvali by the Georgian armed forces during the night of 7 to 8 August 2008 marked the beginning of the large-scale armed conflict in Georgia.”
- Georgia’s then own PM Ivanishvili accused President Saakashvili of starting the war.
- Georgia and Chechnya are not unique. Russia is huge and has had violent relations with most of its neighbors. The opening Olympic ceremonies on Friday highlighted its vastness: the nine time zones, both major oceans, steampunk industrialization, and Peter the Great. I wonder what ‘both major oceans’ the author is referring to. The largest oceans are Pacific and Atlantic, but Russia doesn’t abut Atlantic. Russia abuts the Arctic Ocean, which is the fifth-largest, and Pacific.
- Nobody likes to hear this. Befriending post-Yeltsin Russia has been one of the great fools’ games of the past fifteen years. Bush was panned, rightfully, for looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing into his soul. Eight unhelpful years and an invasion of a US ally later, Obama made “resetting” relations with Russia a centerpiece of his international strategy. He began by yanking away proposed missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and giving Russia the START missile reduction treaty in exchange for nothing. Obama replaced Bush’s BMD plan with a much bigger net of planned radars and interceptors and U.S. got transparency and predictability of Russia's strategic nuclear posture out of New START.
- Ultimately, the problem with having the Olympics in Sochi isn’t the security or the accommodations. The problem is that these narratives – even humorous ones – distract us from the painfully slow realization that autocratic Russia is not a friend. That’s a painful truth – almost inconvenient, and almost worth a ceremonial rereading of George Kennan’s Long Telegram every five or ten years. But the sooner we learn it, the better for us, and the better for Russia’s neighbors. Well, the author is one of the few people who don’t seem to know that Russia is not a friend. Russia is a partner on issues where US and Russian interests converge and a competitor on issues where interests diverge.