Ukraine and the Winter Olympics

February 2, 2022, President Biden ordered about 3000 American troops to go to Central Europe (Germany, Poland and Romania) to reinforce NATO allied forces in view of Russia placing 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian boarder. About 1,700 service members, mainly from the 82nd Airborne Division, will deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland. Both North Carolina and Poland are near and dear to my heart so this news story catches my attention more than the Omicron variant.

Ironically, President Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine February/March 2014, right after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the world watched. Tomorrow, February 4, the world will have an opportunity to watch the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics hosted by another country with a centralized political system, China. I hope that at the end of 2022 winter Olympics, we will not watch another annexation.

If history repeats itself, here are some obvious parallels:

Winter OlympicsFeb 7-22Feb 4-20
Location of OlympicsRussiaChina
Host Political SystemCentral Govt.1-party, Communist
President of RussiaPutinPutin
Ruling Party in USADemocraticDemocratic
Number of Russian troops25,000+100,000+
When did Russia enter Ukraine+/- Feb 22TBC

I am not an expert on Ukrainian politics but I can only assume that there exists a mix of Russian sympathizers (most likely in Eastern Ukraine) and sovereign Ukraine proponents (most likely Western Ukraine). Speaking as I am holding my Polish passport, free Ukraine as a buffer between Poland and Russia is a very good thing. Speaking as I am holding my American passport, we have an obligation to support our NATO allies. While not yet a member, Ukraine has close relations with NATO and NATO’s Secretary General said that in 2008 NATO decided that both Ukraine and Georgia will become members it is just not clear when. President Putin is very much opposed to Ukraine joining NATO. Russia is demanding from the US assurances that the US will never allow Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. But the decision about Ukraine’s readiness to join NATO should only be made by Ukraine and 30 allies in the Alliance. This is diplomacy in a nut-shell. Russia threatens that they will be forced to take measures to eliminate unacceptable threats to their national security. US responds with a statement of economic measures which will be stricter than in 2014 (how did that work out for Ukraine and Crimean?) and the world is watching – first the Olympics and then ….

I cannot predict what will happen regarding the political tensions. I am glad that the United States is sending troops to Europe and I trust that 3000 additional soldiers added to boots on the ground measure up well with 100,000 on the other side. I do hope that other NATO countries are also stepping up. Luckily, I do not have to bet on this one; I can only hope that there will not be a perfect symmetry between the parallels of 2014 and 2022 and that nothing worse will happen.

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1 thought on “Ukraine and the Winter Olympics

  1. Erik

    You can’t bet on when Russia might send in troops to visit it’s friends in Ukraine, but you certainly can bet on how many medals the Russian Olympic Committee will win. Right now the Vegas odds-makers have them in 3rd, after Norway and Germany. Today Putin attended the opening ceremony in Beijing to support his athletes (who are not allowed to compete under their flag due to a doping scandal), and to support his Comrade President Xi. I don’t know if the two men actually talked about it, but I bet Putin isn’t going to start an invasion and steal the world stage from China early in the Olympics. But Tic Toc goes the clock; time will soon tell how many medals ROC wins and what Putin has in store for Ukraine.


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