mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Winter Olympics in the Danger Zone

The Caucasus, the long neck of land separating Europe and Asia that runs between the Black and the Caspian Seas, is one of the least stable places on earth. Few parts of the world match this one for ethnic and religious diversity, tension, hatred, and fear: the frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Kurdish independence movements; the fiery standoff between Georgia and Russia; restive regions like Chechnya and Dagestan inside Russia itself; and the volatile situaiton in the two breakaway Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, currently occupied by Russian troops. Today’s news of an assassination attempt in the breakaway Georgian territory of Abkhazia is a reminder that the region remains unstable.

Journalists usually treat these hot spots as isolated conflicts, but demographic change, rising religious polarization, and the hunger for oil are common causes of conflict across the Caucasus region. Russian, Turkish, and Persian influences have stirred the pot for centuries, and the West is now in the mix too.

If the media has tended to neglect the Caucasus, or to look at it piecemeal, they will soon have reason enough to change: Sochi, the site of next winter’s Olympics, is well within range of all these hostilities.

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  • WigWag

    One thing we can count on is that the Russians will end up screwing up the winter games even more than the Greeks screwed up the summer games.

    Of course, to be fair, the Games in Salt Lake City looked like they were on the way to disaster until Mitt Romney stepped in and rescued them.

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