The Winter Olympics should never have been awarded to Vladimir Putin’s Russia

14 January 2014

Last month’s terrorist attacks in Volgograd were doubtless an attempt to warn foreigners off the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month. An attempt, too, to remind Vladimir Putin that his problems in the Caucasus – many of them at least partially made in Moscow – haven’t gone away.

For understandable reasons the bombs have caused plenty of folk to wonder about the security of athletes and visitors in Sochi. Those concerns are, plainly, real even if we may also, I think, expect the Russian state to erect several rings of steel around the Black Sea resort.

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The real concern, frankly, is that Russia was awarded the games in the first place. As I’ve written in today’s Scotsman:

The games should never have been sent to Russia in the first place. Not because of the threat posed by Islamist separatists but because of the character and record of Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president has never hidden who he is. His character has always been on display to those who chose to see. In 2000, as he prepared for the elections that would confirm his status as Boris Yeltsin’s successor, Putin’s backers arranged for a hastily-written biography to be written to show off the new man’s credentials to a public that knew relatively little about the life and rise of this formerly obscure KGB colonel.

It contained this revealing exchange: “Why did you not get inducted into the Young Pioneers until sixth grade? Were things really so bad?” “Of course. I was no Pioneer; I was a hooligan.” “Are you putting on airs?” “You are trying to insult me. I was a real thug.”

This boastful Russian leopard has never changed his spots. Putin’s victory in 2000 was never in doubt. Even so, his allies went to extraordinary lengths to secure his victory. In the weeks before the election Russia was traumatised by a series of bombings targeting apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian cities. In Moscow alone 224 people were killed in two bombings. The attacks were blamed on Chechens and used as a pretext for both a new Russian offensive in the Caucasus and tightened security in the rest of Russia.

In fact, there is ample evidence that the Moscow apartment bombings were planned and carried out by Putin’s former colleagues in the FSB (the KGB’s successor). It is almost inconceivable that Putin did not know about this. As soon as he was elected the bombings ceased.

The bombings were used to advance Putin’s political interests. In the climate of fear and hysteria dominating Russia then, anyone promising or projecting strength could have been elected. That man happened to be Vladimir Putin.

The essential character of Putin’s regime has never changed. It is a regime that has offered Russians security and certainty which, after the chaos and looting that marked the 1990s, has proved understandably appealing to many Russian citizens. Nevertheless, his regime has never declined the opportunity to heighten those fears and use those fears ruthlessly.

There is, again, ample evidence that the Russian security services knew about, and did nothing to stop, the 2002 siege at a Moscow theatre that ended with the deaths of 129 people and, two years later, the hostage crisis at a school in the North Ossettian town of Beslan that ended with 312 deaths. In each instance these acts of terrorism were exploited by the president to justify both Russia’s wars in the Caucasus and Putin’s increased grip on power in Moscow. These deaths were useful deaths.

Putin’s claim this month that, unlike terrorists, “Russian special units always do their utmost in the course of special operations to protect civilians, women and children” would be laughable if it weren’t also sickening.

The recent release of political prisoners, including the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the dissident punk band Pussy Riot will only fool gullible foreigners. These releases may be welcome; they are also a sop to international opinion that does nothing to alter the fundamental nature of a Russian regime that is, at best, a kind of twilight democracy.

Dissent, as the graves of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko remind us, is dangerous in modern Russia. Politkovskaya and Litvinenko are far from the only regime opponents to have died in mysterious circumstances. The chief suspect in Litvinenko’s death from polonium poisoning, Andrei Lugavoy, was made a member of parliament and thus granted immunity from prosecution – including any attempt by Britain to have him extradited.

As the writer Masha Gessen has observed: “The simple and evident truth is that Putin’s Russia is a country where political rivals and vocal critics are often killed, and at least sometimes the order comes directly from the president’s office.”

Whole thing here. Security issues are the least of the problems with modern Russia.

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Show comments
  • Swanky

    The picture: And what poor innocent animals is that killer taking down, just so he can feel that he’s a Master of the Universe? God I hate men like that. They say he’s ex-KGB. I see the KGB and the tyranny; I don’t see the ‘ex’.

    P. S. And he’s got the nerve to wear the cross!

  • Terry Field

    People should consider the potential power of the new Russia when unified with China. Climate change will weld them together, as it will the USA and Canada.
    But the danger to Europe is immense.

    • Swanky

      Would you shut up about ‘climate change’! It’s colder now, as any walk outside your front door will tell you. AND: the scientists lied.

      What we really need to fear is the ascendancy of the Left and of despots like Putin. Get real and grow a pair!

      • Terry Field

        You have to be a complete and utter cretin to say there is no global climate change and no global warming because it is ‘cold outside your front door.
        You are a stupid, ill-educated, undiscerning bonehead. ‘Leftie scientists’ -!!! — you are a stupid thick malicious fool.

        • Swanky

          And you are such a reflective, erudite gentleman with a great sense of panache.

          • Terry Field

            spot sur old cocker, spot sur.

  • Angus_MacLellan

    Thanks for the information on Putin – he seems like the sort of leader we could do with in the UK.

  • Dan Heizinger

    Cruddy hit piece. Also, quoting Masha Gessen? That’s funny. This dyk8 said marriage should be outlawed altogether. Why not quote another insane bull? Rosie O’Donnell perhaps?

    • Swanky

      You batting for Putin, punk?

  • GenJackRipper

    Western “conservatives” side with liberals against the only true traditionalist regime in the western world?


  • pp22pp

    Gracious Moderator. I really don’t think this is so terrible. I trust that you will be gracious as to let it pass.

    Why pick on Russia? They treat gays better than our Muslim friends and we love them. We even give them our orphan girls.

    We locked a man up for defiling a mosque with a piece of bacon. They lock up a bunch of girls for defiling a church. What’s the difference?

    The oligarchs robbed Russia and Putin made himself popular by running them out of town. Then they moved to London. Do they own the Speccie?

    Why do you not impose the same moral standards on white Russians, but not on non-whites. Isn’t that racist?

    • Terry Field

      We give them our orphan girls by the tens of thousands per the maths that must apply based on the government law officer’s disclosure of the numbers of others not prosecuted for political reasons all over the country. I seem to remember a figure publicly stated as between 90 and 90 known possible perpetrators.
      This sewer is wide, deep and has many tributaries.

  • Djordje Stefan

    My god what a rusophobic article.Like it was written by a Chechen terrorist and not by a journalist.I know that west would like Russia to be on its knees like she was back in the 90s,but those good old days of Russias weakness are OVER,you in the west should understand that by now.Russia is getting stronger and stronger in every aspect {especially in military one},is that the PROBLEM.West cannot do what it wants any more{Syria,Iran….}.Well,to use the words of Indian foreign ministry to their US counterparts:this aint the 90s anymore.

    • Swanky

      It’s not Russophobic, it’s tyrannophobic. You friends with Putin? Crawl back under your rock.

  • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

    As Ive posted before Stephen Fry is poised to strike with the utmost ferocity.
    Expect immediate cancellation of the games.
    Peter Tatchell is having second thoughts after the way he was treated when last in Russia.

    I sorta’ like Russia and wish them well.
    Whether I would like living under their political system I rather doubt.

    I’m not too keen on the way our system works come to think of it
    ie If it is considered necessary ignoring what the ‘people’ make clear that they want.

    Fundamental changes can be made but usually about 20 years after they were required.

    • Dan Heizinger

      Who cares what suicide Fry has to say? Is he going to run to Belgium again? The man is an unstable colonialist not going anywhere good when he dies.

  • goldyD

    I think they all should.. We can’t stop all bad things from happening! The only way to help prevent such terrorist acts is by installing AI security global. Yes they will be watching everyone! But our world would be a much safer place if we do so. Since I have nothing to hide. I’m willing to allow Uncle Sam to monitor my every move. I’ve included the video to such AI software. I find it very interesting. :) I also think the Olympics should remain in Russia and all over. We only need to accept the fact a terrorist could be anyone! The world needs to protect the innocent civilians.

    I only wish for Peace,

  • crosscop

    Attacks on the Winter Olympics? Well, Putin was told that’s what would happen if he didn’t play ball over Assad. How’s this for a veiled threat?

    “Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord.”

    I wonder what Cameron had to do to keep the London Olympics safe.

  • zanzamander

    On that count China shouldn’t have been awarded the Olympics either and Qatar the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

    I wish the Russian people and Putin all the best and may long they remain a royal thorn in the side of the Islamists and their Western useless Liberal, Lefty idiot friends.

  • Mountainman

    If you think that Khordokovsky was innocent then read this.

  • Mountainman

    The person responsible for Beslan and the Moscow theatre siege is alive, well and living in the London. If you think Khordokovsky was innocent

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