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Putin's War Means a Dangerous Olympics

By: Dr. Shane Fitzpatrick/Special to the Daily Record 2/5/14
02/07/2014, 10:36 AM

On New Year’s Eve, 1994, following multiple toasts of Russian vodka, Russia’s modern era of war in the Cauca• sus began. On that evening, members of the Russian High Command signed orders that sent the armor of the 67th Russian Army Corps into the streets of Grozny, Chechnya. The soldiers were rapidly trapped in the narrow streets of the city and annihilated by Chechen terrorist militants.

Twenty Russian officers were killed within hours. In the subsequent days the Chechen resistance controlled the streets, deliberately allowing local dogs to scavenge on the corpses of Russian soldiers. The resultant Russian “anti-terrorist” operations took on a savagery that many observers in the region and in the international community described as a genocidal rampage.

Vladimir Putin became Russian President in 2000 and pledged to bring the conflict to an end. Fresh from serving as Director of the Russian Federal Security Service, he assumed personal ownership of Russia’s battle against “bandits and Muslim extremists.” At the end of the year, he declared victory.

However, Putin’s War still rages today and it has damaged beyond repair an entire generation of young men and women in Chechnya. Terrorist attacks have included more than 30 “Black Widow” bombings since 2000 against Russian schools, hospitals, theaters, rock concerts, aircraft, subways and railway stations, brutalizing the Russian population. Even the United States was touched by Putin’s War when Tamerlan and Dzohkar Tsarnaev bombed the 2013 Boston Marathon. The former grew up in Dagestan and the latter, now indicted in U.S. District Court, was raised in Grozny.

Just more than 20 years to the day of the Russian army’s brutal confrontation with the Chechen nationalist and Islamist resistance in Grozny, Russian President Vladimir Putin will host the XXII Olympiad in Sochi — a city on the edge of the rebellion’s war zone. Nestled between the Black Sea to the west, and the frequently lawless North Caucasus to the east, Sochi has been turned into its own military encampment.

Protected by the 58th Russian Army and tens of thousands of police, the clusters of Olympic facilities in and around Sochi will be secured by a “ring of steel.” It is language harkening back to the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943. Volgograd is the modern name for Stalingrad and it lies just north of Sochi. Coincidentally, Volgograd was the specific target of four Chechen suicide attacks in 2013 and threats against the Sochi Olympics emanate from the handlers of these suicide bombers.

These are Putin’s Olympics, the result of falsely convincing the International Olympic Committee in 2007 that the violent problems of the Caucasus were solved. Strangely, Putin did not announce this fabricated personal victory to his own Russian citizens until 2009. The reality is that these are the most dangerous Olympics in more than a century. Security has been accomplished in part by re-creating much of the former Soviet state security system and reviving its undemocratic practices of random interrogation, arrest, deportation and threat of governmental retaliation against extended families, perhaps even entire cites in the Caucasus should a terrorist attack happen in Sochi, or elsewhere in Russia.

As the opening ceremonies near, the most immediate question is not now if appropriate layers of security have been provided, but if the actions of the Russian military and police to forcibly isolate the Caucasus have in themselves accelerated the determination of terrorists to attack the Games. International terrorist organizations have responded, including Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab by pledging even more support to the largest of the terrorist groups, the Chechen-led Caucasus Emirate. The leader of the group, Doku Umarov has threatened terrorist attacks against the United States and other non-Muslim countries. The U.S. government is currently offering a reward of $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Americans have made clear that we will not negotiate with terrorists. Should Americans choose not to travel to Sochi, it will not be a concession to those who perpetrate such brutal crimes against our citizens. Instead, it is acknowledgement that it is not entirely clear where Putin’s War ends, and Putin’s Olympics begins.