A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia
On May 14, 2011, Russia switched on a countdown timer in the city of Sochi to tick off the days remaining until the 2014 Winter Olympiad unfolds there. The clock should have been in the shape of a ticking time bomb, in order to do justice to horror of anticipating what may be the bloodiest sports contest in modern memory.
Just the day before, Russia had gone down to utterly humiliating defeat to tiny Finland, getting blanked 0-3, at the semi-finals of the world ice hockey championships in Slovakia (Russia then promptly surrendered seven goals to Czech Republic and lost the bronze medal as well) . The world was reminded that Russia is inviting it to gape upon the spectacle of Russian failure in 2014; if Russians are unable to meet the high expectations for gold medals the whole country will be forced to bow its head in shame.
But even if Russians manage to reap a fistful of gold in Sochi, they still must face the horrifying specter of terrorism.
Explosions and assassinations are now routine in the lands surrounding Sochi, which teem with open revolts against the Kremlin that target all authority figures. A day without such killings is the rare exception to the norm. The Caucasus people have already made it plain that they believe the Sochi ground is sacred and that the Russian games are an abomination. The rebels can hardly be expected to look the other way while Russians attempt to celebrate beneath their very noses, nor to let pass an golden opportunity to draw the world’s attention to Russian atrocities in the region.
Russia has been convicted over and over and over again of state-sponsored, kidnapping, torture and murder throughout the Caucasus. It has lost control over Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya and he in turn has lost control of the Islamic revolution against Orthodox Russia. It will be child’s play for these shadowy figures to strike against the Sochi games.
If they do, the world will have little sympathy for Russia. It will remember the outrage of Russian aggression in Sochi, it will be reminded of Russian atrocities in Chechnya, and it will realize its own folly in allowing the games to be vested in a place like Russia.
And even if Russia manages to acquit itself on the playing fields and to stave off a major terrorist event, it still cannot win. What can the Kremlin have been thinking to invite the world’s journalists to probe into Russia generally and the Caucasus region specifically, to lay out before the eyes of a slack-jawed world the true extent of Russia’s KGB dictatorship? Does the Kremlin really think opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov will remain silent and ignore their own golden opportunity to speak out against Putin? Or does the Kremlin think it can get away with arresting such figures just before the games to keep them silent?
Nemtsov is from Sochi and ran for office there not long ago. If left free to do so he will be omnipresent on Western TV, making a mockery of the Putin regime. If arrested, he will become an international martyr, and Putin a pariah. Russia cannot win by staging the Olympics in Russia, it can only lose.
It will lose billions of dollars in funds desperately needed for social services in a country where the people don’t rank in the world’s top 130 for life expectancy. It will lose face, and be exposed for the outrageous autocracy that it is. It will lose on the playing fields, and in all liklihood it will lose many human lives in bloody acts of revenge.
Russia is proudly counting down a ticking time bomb right beneath its feet.