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Editorial

by Archives September 2, 2008

I’m sure many of you watched as the fireworks erupted over Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ National Stadium to kick off the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics. With one live feed NBC soared from ratings doldrums to lay the foundation for what would become the most watched television event in human history. It was a sporting extravaganza surpassing even the moon landings in sheer viewership; thrusting the rest of the globe into a media backwater.
Indeed, amidst the hoopla one might be forgiven for missing the phalanx of elite Russian armoured troops rumbling south through the Roki tunnel to invade the sovereign state of Georgia. I mean, watching Phelps win his 8th gold was certainly more entertaining than French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Tbilisi. But with the Beijing Olympics wrapped up, it’s probably time to discuss the dirty little five-day war perpetrated by Russia against its forlorn and largely forgotten democratic neighbour in the Caucasus.
The Kremlin’s line, that Georgia initiated the conflict by perpetrating a campaign of genocide against the South Ossetians, should be discarded as propagandist hogwash. During the week from July 31st to August 6th the Georgian people were subjected to a malicious campaign of artillery fire directed against them from bases in South Ossetia. This was in violation of a cease fire and occurred despite the wide autonomy granted to the separatists by the Georgian government. Not willing to accept any further casualties, and with a desire to protect his countrymen, on the evening of August 7th Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili ordered his troops to reclaim the renegade territory. At this point the details get a little squirrely.
Somehow, within twelve hours of Saakashvili’s order, several Russian armoured brigades were already mobilized and rolling heavy on South Ossetia’s highways. This would be a remarkable feat for any army but it is particularly striking given that the Russians have not engaged in any serious expeditionary action since the Cold War. It is also curious that the elite units involved were originally stationed opposite NATO forces in the Baltics but were specifically repositioned just prior to the conflict. Likewise, one might wonder how the Russian Black Sea fleet made the roughly twenty five hour trip to arrive at the Georgian coast on August 8th; only twenty four hours after the commencement of hostilities. While these apparent logistical impossibilities may be explained by the quirks of Russian math; I must confess that I was initially perplexed. Why was the Russian military on hair trigger alert to invade Georgia so far in advance of the supposed genocide that sparked the conflict?
I would pose a simple answer; the South Ossetian separatists were acting as agents provocateurs in order to lure Georgia into a trap. Who planned this trap? Why Vladimir Putin of course! He needed it to justify a Russian occupation of the Caucasus. And, don’t kid yourself; an occupation is exactly what we are seeing in Georgia today. The Russian army has seized and continues to hold large swathes of the countryside including the port of Poti, the industrial city of Gori, plus the regions major energy infrastructure.
So, what should one do when the Russian bear is beating its imperial war drums? My first instinct is to call for a display of Western military resolve. This could be accomplished by stationing a NATO fleet in the Black Sea or by forward deploying U.S. forces in Germany to places like Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Ukraine. But since none of those solutions are likely to be forthcoming, for a variety of reasons, I would suggest an attack on Russian prestige.
Recently, the IOC awarded the Russian Black Sea port of Sochi, which is only forty miles from Tbilisi Georgia, the 2014 Winter Olympics. This is not surprising as the IOC has a bad habit of awarding the games to dictatorial regimes such as Hitler’s Germany in 1936, the Soviet Union in 1980, Tido’s Yugoslavia in 1984, Communist China in 2008, and now Putin’s Russia in 2014. Simply put, few other regimes are willing shell out $100 million for their opening ceremonies, as the Chinese did recently in Beijing.
Russia intends to turn Sochi into a massive propaganda victory which would grant legitimacy to their illegal war. As such, the West has only one course of action; it must demonstrate its moral convictions and shame Putin by boycotting the 2014 games.

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