Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Mike Sigov

Putin may become dictator to deliver on Olympics

Russia is celebrating. It has won a bid to host the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014.

Especially jubilant are Kremlin sycophants. They attribute Russia's success to President Vladimir Putin. They also see the win as evidence that Russia is once again accepted as a leading world power despite its poor human-rights record.

Unfortunately, they are right. This even beats a fishing trip with President Bush.

There is no doubt that Mr. Putin's decision to appear in person to deliver an appeal to International Olympic Committee members on behalf of his favorite skiing resort of Sochi, a city in a subtropical Black Sea region in southern Russia, was a major factor in the decision.

Without Mr. Putin throwing his weight behind this appeal, the International Olympic Committee would have undoubtedly rejected the bid by Sochi - a small city squeezed between the sea and a vast mountainous region torn by a lingering war with Muslim separatists.

Moreover, not only does the city lack world-class sports facilities, but its infrastructure, notably roads and the airport, are also inadequate.

If Mr. Putin had not personally promised that the Russian government would spend $12 billion to amend the situation, the IOC's decision would have been different.

The decision is a major public relations victory by the man who has destroyed the embryonic Russian democracy by empowering the country's secret services, nixing federalism, subverting the parliament, and muzzling the media. In the eyes of the IOC, this must qualify him as an able manager.

Mr. Putin's managerial ability is rooted in the dirt he has collected on others since he was the head of the federal security service.

To be sure, the Kremlin has enough oil dollars to burn by turning a subtropical hamlet into a Winter Olympics host.

But it remains to be seen whether Mr. Putin can deliver on his promise to make sure that the money is spent to that effect.

There are at least two promises on which he has failed to deliver. They happen to be the first promises he made taking office almost eight years ago.

The first failed promise was to defeat the separatists in the North Caucuses, a troubled mountainous region that includes Chechnya and the neighboring Ingushetia. The conflict continues, having spread from Chechnya to Ingushetia. (Sochi is located on the brink of this troubled mountainous region.)

The second pledge was to quell corruption. Under Mr. Putin, corruption has become systemic, meaning that his regime is based on kickbacks and other bribes. By independent think-tank estimates, they equal, if not surpass, a half of Russia's GDP.

This is why there is no guarantee that Mr. Putin can deliver on the promises he has made to the IOC. No wonder he has convened a government meeting to warn the bureaucrats that Russia's prosecutor general's office will closely watch the allocation of the $12 billion so the money is not misappropriated.

The only way he could at least try to deliver on his promises to the IOC is to bend the rules and keep the presidential power after his last constitutionally allowed term expires next spring, effectively becoming a dictator.

Certainly other Russian leaders, such as Joseph Stalin - who had his favorite dacha built in Sochi - could do the job of preparing the Olympics, the job in which others dictators such as Adolf Hitler once excelled.

But with Stalin and Hitler long gone, the IOC decided that Mr. Putin would do for now.

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