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The Putin Games End, The Great Game Resumes

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Not many tears will be shed by anyone leaving Sochi save a few disappointed or thrilled athletes.

Not even NBC will miss the Putin Games  much.  Friday night the network averaged 14 and a half million viewers.  These are nice numbers, but by contrast the Super Bowl averaged 111 million viewers. The closing ceremonies will add some pop, but ask your colleagues tomorrow to name an American athlete who had a star turn.  Ted Ligety, perhaps, and of course T.J. Oshie.  Team USA did beat the Russians so there was that.

And it appears as though the “steel curtain” prevented a terrorist attack.  Good for that, and good bye to the hotels and the lousy snow.  Everyone reports how welcoming and friendly the Russians have been.  Time share sales in Sochi have not soared.

The Paralympics arrive in Sochi on March 7, and interest will be higher for these games than in the past because of greater awareness of the athletes and because of the opportunity to get a second look at Sochi.  Between the closing ceremonies of these games and the opening of those all eyes will be on Ukraine, and especially on the Russian troops in the Crimea and the Russian attitude towards deposed President Viktor F. Yanukovych.  Yanukovych will be lucky to get out of the country with his life, and the pictures from his private estate are sure to enrage further the ordinary Ukrainian citizen already grieving and angry over the slaughter of their fellow citizens.

What will Putin do over the lurch west of a neighbor he had been coaxing/bribing/manipulating back into Russian domination?  Pray it is nothing, but watch that space after the games end. Over on Twitter, follow @ThreatWatch1 and @20Committee, the feds of Lt. Col. Frank Dowse (USMC, ret) and John Schindler, a professor at the Naval War College.  Both men are experts on Ukraine, and Dowse, who spent three years in Kiev as a military attaché in the 90s, speaks Ukraine and Russian and is following the local media closely.  Watching a revolution on the borders of Russia in real time is far more interesting than the Slalom, and the stakes so much higher.  The world seems not to have absorbed the impact of the slaughter last week, or of the power of the people who surged to Maidan to topple Yanukovych, oust his leadership structure, and begin some return to normalcy while keeping wary eyes on the east.

As should the whole world.



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