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BHL: The bloodied Games of Putin the Terrible

Friday, 21 February, 2014

“For those who care about democracy, can we, by pulling out of Sochi — or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony on Sunday — ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the Games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?” Bernard-Henri Lévy

That’s the plea of Bernard-Henri Lévy, often referred to simply as BHL, the French intellectual and author. Il faut quitter Sotchi! is how he put in Le Monde. In the translated version, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, he pointed the finger at the Russian President: “At these Games, where the flame symbolizing the Olympic ideal has been purloined by a thug, when the winning athletes playfully bite their medals, this time will not the gold, silver and bronze have the metallic taste of blood?” And then he hammers the nail home:

“Do you not see the absurdity — not to say the obscenity — of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible, who earlier this week issued $2 billion to prop up the regime of his valet Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who then unleashed his forces on the Maidan protesters; and the other Putin, strutting across the stage and through the stands, greeting you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?”

Talking of Yanukovych, why is the Kremlin propping him up? Simple. If he were to fall, the risk of contagion would reach Russia and its power base would be vulnerable. In Putin’s eyes, the Ukraine is Russia’s barricade against the West. From the perspective of the West, however, and Poland, in particular, a pro-Western Ukraine is a vital cordon sanitaire against an increasingly belligerent Russia. Paweł Świeboda, the president of demosEUROPA, a Warsaw-based think tank, used the conciseness of Twitter to put it all in perspective:

When the Sochi Winter Games end, the Great Game for the future of Eastern Europe will fill the gap in the TV schedules. The West would be well advised not to bring a baguette to this knife fight.


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